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The personal story of * 
an extraordinary woman whose 
gift with words became a 
tactical weapon of war 



Dust in the Lions Paw 

This is the personal, even intimate, story 
of an extraordinary woman whose gift of 
words became a tactical weapon of war. 
Freya Stark, who has written probably 
the most beautiful and the most percep- 
tive contemporary travel literature, of- 
fered her special skills to the British 
government during World War II. The 
government accepted promptly and used 
her knowledge of other cultures and her 
talent for friendship as ammunition 
against Nazi propaganda in the Middle 

The war brought not only crises of 
diplomacy but also private tragedy. Her 
mother was imprisoned by Mussolini. 
The man she loved was killed by the Ger- 
mans a few days after she had received 
his proposal of marriage. Her work among 
the Arab nations where she shrewdly 
brought the Allied message to the harems 
as well as to the men was a success, and 
she was sent on to the United States to 
explain, and defend, British Middle East- 
ern policy. Her comments on her Ameri- 
can adventures are crisp and frank. In 
these pages emerges a profile of a cou- 
rageous woman whose spontaneity of feel- 
ing is balanced with keen intelligence. 

Illustrated with 28 photographs 

demgn by Ronald Clyne 

9 S7952-E 62-01989 |6.75 
Stark, Freya 

Dust in the lion' s pawj 
autobiography, 1939-19^6. 
N.Y., Harcourt, Brace & World 



.19.82 .. 

Other Works by Freya Stark 

IONIA: A Quest 





*I am but as dust in the lion's paw . . .* 

from THE SHAHNAMA by Firdausi (941-1020) 



Autobiography 1939-1946 




All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form 

or by any mechanical means, including mimeograph and tape recorder, 

without permission in writing from the publisher 


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 62-7374 
Printed in Great Britain 

This book is dedicated to the memory of friends 
in Iraq who were imprisoned or murdered. 

My thanks are due to many people, and par- 
ticularly to John Grey Murray who went over 
the growth of this book with endless patience, to 
the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, Lord David 
Cecil, and Lord Horder, who kindly read the 
typescript with helpful advice, and to the editors 
of The Times, Chatham House, and The Geo- 
graphical Magazine for permission to reproduce 
extracts from articles written for them. 



1. SYRIA, 1939 7 



4. WAR IN ADEN 41 

5. THE RED SEA 5! 



8. BAGHDAD (l94I, 1942) AND CYPRUS 117 







14. ENGLAND IN 1944 222 

15. INDIA 230 



16. ITALY 1945 252 



INDEX 287 



















ALLIED TROOPS, 1943 148 






Between pages 244 and 245 


THE AUTHOR AT LUCKNOW. Photograph by Peter Coats 



ASOLO 26l 


The mood in which this book was lived seems gone beyond 
recapture ; partly because the greatness of the background in those 
years makes trivial any story of one's own. 

The writing of autobiography is anyway a fragile uprooting 
we sift with a constant surprise at finding our life so inextricably 
interleaved with lives of other people : its complication, in which 
we are so intimately involved, appears to us three-dimensional 
against the apparently flat and simple surface of our neighbours, 
Yet as we unravel our thread we find there, in the lives that 
touched us the origin or echo of every mood we thought of 
as our own. It is less through us than through their alien or 
divergent mirrors that the light we had in us has been allowed 
to shine. 

And how imperfect, when we recapture them, our own feelings 
appear, shorn of that * other people's' background which was the 
atmosphere in which they lived. It lies around us persuasive as air, 
and, though we cannot identify or portray it, our voice is a phantom 
without it. We speak an unfamiliar language in an empty room 
when the life-giving echoes are silent ; the climate which once caught 
every intonation is lost only to be recovered, if at all, by labour and 

The Second World War began over twenty years ago, yet it is 
not the mere interval of a generation that has produced the unusual 
change. History in that time took one of the rare turns that intensify 
its course: like the break-through of the Iron Age into the Bronze, 
nuclear science brought a radical difference into the everyday life of 
mankind. Most particularly the concept of war has altered. As its 
menace grows clearer, the avoidance of it at any price is already a 
commonplace among thinking men, and science will usher in 



through necessity what Socrates and Christianity long ago offered by 
choice. Persuasion alone looks like the weapon of the future, with 
annihilation as the alternative. 

This gives the coming world a hopeful tinge, and makes one 
happier for those now venturing upon it. But it was not the world 
of my generation. What my book tries to record is something that 
from the beginning of history persisted almost unchanged to yester- 
day a conviction that war is not the ultimate disaster. To those 
who remember the pre-1914 stability, who came to know the Ger- 
man terror, or who like myself lived for years in Italy under the 
Fascists, there was comfort and certainty in the comparative unim- 
portance of death. When the news of the Dunkirk beaches came 
over the morning wireless to Aden, it was not relief or the hope of 
safety that struck us, but a flash of gratitude and assurance that the 
honour of England in her history was safe. I would not feel this 
now. The damage of war has risen beyond all human right to wage 
it and the feelings of 1939 are out of date. Yet this book deals 
with those feelings: and they had their validity, and should be 
measured in their own right and not in the light of what was then 

What I hope to describe is a task of seven war years during which 
my immediate colleagues and I tried to convince the Middle East 
the area in which we chiefly laboured to trust in our eventual vic- 
tory. We believed in it ourselves, and during the war we succeeded. 
I have sketched the Arab side of this work in East is West which can 
be read as a companion to the present more personal and more ex- 
clusively English volume. It was written in 1944 during success, and 
this is written after Suez and other phenomena of failure ; yet both 
I hope have kept the vicissitudes of time in sight. If the past were 
ever past there would be little use in recalling it ; but it lives with us 
in never-ending variation, as if it were a magic carpet on which we 
travel through the middle air. The contours of our destination were 
long ago woven in its fading colours and half-obliterated mazes, and 
the time to alter or improve them passes quickly while the landscapes 
of our world race by below. Our future is uncontrollable if we are 
unable to read our past. 

Many things that are in my records of this time I have discarded. 



There was a private life of friendships and of love that have lasted, 
that cherished and sustained me. There was ill health increasing till 
1943 when I reached Canada just in time to be operated on for peri- 
tonitis ; and there was long and terrible anxiety over my mother, 
marooned and then imprisoned in Italy and finally rescued, and over 
the fate of my remaining niece and nephews and my home. All this, 
though important to me, I have taken to be irrelevant and mentioned 
lightly, while I have filled in with more detail the backgrounds 
involved in the advancing or receding floods of war, and snatches 
of news or diaries that, though not intrinsically valuable, may give 
to some neglected moments a local habitation and a name. 

My task was propaganda, in south Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, America, 
India and Italy, and the interest of my book if its mouse-squeak is 
ever heard among the generals' memoirs is a fortuitous one due to 
the developing urgency of this art. The world is already largely 
relying on persuasion rather than war, and our danger in the vast 
corruption of words is increasing. A correct estimate of the formid- 
able instrument of persuasion, its legitimate and illegitimate uses, 
seems to me as urgent as the study of any of the other engines of our 
day, and the more important since it lies open in the hands of 
ignorance for any inconsidered rashness. In one form or another, 
conscious or unconscious, we have all become propagandists; 
integrity alone can keep us truthful. 

I came to what I think are a few fundamental conclusions during 
my seven years' study of this subject, and my book, in the shape of 
autobiography, is a description of how the conclusions were gradu- 
ally arrived at, by experiment, thought and error, through the war. 
The adventure is one I like to think of for it was done in a heroic 
time, facing unequal odds in the first few years, and always with the 
friendship, guidance and help of people far more able than myself. 
Of these friendships many remain to make me happy, and some have 
become a part of that past by which our present lives; five in par- 
ticular went deeply into my life and my world is the poorer for 
their absence Lord Wavell and Brigadier Clayton in Egypt, Sir 
Kinahan Cornwallis and Adrian Bishop in Iraq, and Bernard Beren- 
son in Italy when I came home: Nuri Pasha too, a friend of thirty 
years, must never be forgotten. 



I have included some of their letters because I love to think of 
them and often read them, and like to share them, looking out from 
the warmth of their memory as from a peaceful tower. 




Syria, 1939 

In 1938 I reached London while Neville Chamberlain was declaring 
the 'peace in our time' that filled us with bewilderment and wonder. 
Of Germany I knew little, though I had been there that year, fright- 
ened by its dangerous seclusion. But in Fascist Italy we were 
aware since 1933 of Abyssinian plans. These could only mean an 
eventual grab for the Mediterranean which English oscillations be- 
tween threat and appeasement were making deceptively alluring to 
the historically uneducated regime. Italy I never doubted would 
fight us if she thought she safely could. In the spring of 1939 1 wrote 
to the Foreign Office to ask if my Arabic could be of use in case of 
war; went home to pack our most valued possessions and distribute 
them among friends for hiding; and with a few months in hand, as 
seemed probable, travelled to Syria and Greece, to look at things 
I might never again see in a possibly ruined world. 

As far as I was concerned, the war began in that spring weather. 
I wandered for some weeks among the Templars' castles and the 
fortresses of the Assassins in their almost unvisited hills. In some 
hollow beneath the snowline among the Syrian flowers I read 
William of Tyre and the memoirs of Usama, until time forgot itself 
and the prose of the delightful lord of Sheizar and the day-to-day 
events of the crusaders entered my life as I haunted their footpaths. 
I was now descending, making for Aleppo and picking up letters in 
settled places on my way. In Hama there was one that I desired, 
from a friend asking me to marry. Two days later in Aleppo I found 
the obscure news of his death. No investigation could be pressed, 
his service was anyway beyond the law; he had written to me, I 
thought later, already with foreboding. 

This shock made, as I look back upon it, an almost physical differ- 
ence. The landscapes, remembered in sunlight before it, I could see, 


SYRIA, 1939 

after it happened, only in shadow. I was in the house of friends who 
ran a hospital in Aleppo and were used to grief in and out of its 
doors; they were good to me, and left me alone to weep as if all 
my tears had to be shed. For three days it went on, and surely I 
shall melt, I thought, if this cannot stop. It was a sorrow unlike any 
felt before, a nakedness uncomforted by the majesty of death. This 
harm done without personal cause in the name of some blind for- 
mula, and the warm life annihilated, left me despairing in a world 
built with despair. 

When I was a child, I used to watch some blacksmiths at work 
along a canal in Piedmont, beating out scythes for the reaping of 
corn. Two men would bend over the heated iron and hammer al- 
ternately while the sparks responded, and the curved triangle of 
metal shone with a rusty glow as if already it knew the colour of 
sunset on harvested fields. A lad with a pair of pincers would sud- 
denly seize and dip it hissing to be tempered in the stream, as we too 
have to be tempered for war. 

Through spring and summer the history of Europe reeled drunk 
from crisis to crisis, while I lingered on the Syrian coasts and the 
beauty of the world in spite of all continued to speak its detached 
intimate language to the heart. 

Dearest B [I wrote to my mother] : 

. . . The Altounians 1 took me to their country place, above Alex- 
andretta so beautiful that incredible bay, the snow-capped Taurus 
behind it, the green and mauve of early spring, the Muslim village hanging 
white on the slope, the jagged tilted hills. Down below you see Alex- 
andretta and its ships, small and flat and wonder what will happen next. 
Europe does not loom so large everyone wonders whether this province 
will be given to the Turks and when. 2 Already their flags flutter every- 
where All that Altounian property, and their model dairy farm and 
boathouse on the lake of Antioch all may go from one moment to the 
next. I can't tell you how lovely that plain is water avenues of yellow 
iris and white flowers: a strange cold colour like shot silk and a sort of 
Parisian elegance of landscape. It is done with so little : a ribbon of water, 
a patch of green on a bare slope, a thin litde crescent of cypress trees and 

1 Dr. and Mis. Ernest Altounian. 

2 It was ceded in June 1939. 


SYRIA, 1939 

the evening light thrown over it is something poignant and beautiful no 
one will ever forget. The Orontes flows by, muddy and full, and one can 
see the wall that Bohemond scaled at night 1 hesitating because no doubt 
he knew that some rung of an Arab ladder must always break. 

I followed that shining coastline south to Lebanon, and have many 
letters sent home describing it one at the end of April from Tartous, 

... the loveliest Templar church in Syria. Strength and beauty com- 
bined in these old fortified churches. The floor is sand, the stone a lion 
yellow, a little pre-Christian shrine is embodied in the nave, the deep 
windows have smooth receding walls to shoot from and let in streaks of 

Huge blocks of citadel and wall in a triangle from the sea have all been 
grown into and over by the modern houses : you see a pendent arch over 
some tiny courtyard, and whole blocks built into the vaults of the maga- 
zines. No one stops in Tartous ; there is only a dingy place to sleep, rather 
picturesque over columns in a garden, but the sort of sordid bed one gets 
in Syria; a man obligingly turned out of it to make room for me. It 
takes hours for the exhaustion to wear off in the morning. People dash by 
on the main coast road. But there is lovely country rolling away full of 
corn and little hills of olives and the snow ridge ofjebel Akrum behind . . . 
A crusader ruin is there, lost on a green hill in a green landscape with 
Safita and its tower in sight far away. A monastery on the next hill 
provided a horse with fine red double-pommelled saddle when the car 
could go no longer, and I rode up under oak trees, the land scented with 
flowers, remote and unimportant and pleasant, all its active life and wars 
forgotten. When I came back to the monastery the monks gave eggs and 
curds and sat and talked with their buns of hair tied neatly on their necks. 
They have a fair up there on August the 2otk The little monastery is 
built of good stone, safely shut in its own courtyard with carved windows 
opening high up on to that peaceful rolling view, the sea on the west and 
the snow-range on the east. After lunch I went wandering over more 
country filled with sheets of marigolds or borage, with buffaloes plough- 
ing and the Alawit girls hoeing in bright dresses, and came to another 
small square castle called Yahmour in a hamlet not far from the sea ... 
Men there, in companies of six or seven, were catching quails and small 
birds with hawks. They beat the corn with a stick held in one hand and 
when a bird flies out the hawk pounces from their other wrist. They 
1 During the First Crusade in 1098. 


SYRIA, 1939 

decorate him with a bell and he has saffron-yellow eyes. This is a for- 
bidden sport and the people were frightened when they saw us, but they 
let me photograph them after being talked to. When we left them we 
came to a headland with a few monoliths a Phoenician city that once 
welcomed Alexander and is now a lonely stretch of shore. 

One citing to the spacious world as it was falling. I crossed the 
Aegean by Istanbul to Greece in an almost empty ship while the war 
in Ethiopia was ending and Italy and Germany announced their 'pact 
of steel'. By October our own war had come, and I left England for 
Aden as Assistant Information Officer to Stewart Perowne under 
the Ministry of Information: 'I waited at the coast for the tide and 
left in the afternoon all with lifebelts on and had eventually to 
sleep in Boulogne, pitch dark. Paris deserted and the shops far more 
shut than London, Italy all deserted : Milan station about ten people, 
and Venice pleasantly empty with only Venetians all pained and 
surprised because we "want to fight". You would think it was a 
caprice we indulge in for fun ! ' l 

1 Letter to Jock Murray, 15.10.39. 




In Aden Queen Victoria presided in a bronze or was it a marble ? 
crinoline over the Crescent and the colonial smugness of the oriental 
shops. A French or Italian town would have had an esplanade, band- 
stand and cafe, and some flights of fancy in its buildings; but Aden 
made its effort in a confident age and rested there, and we still sat 
under punkahs in the Marina Hotel. If the volcanic stone, which 
depressingly repeated the colour of the cliff behind it, had been 
whitewashed it would have made the town better to look at and 
cooler ; but the myth that utility and beauty are alternatives was dis- 
proved by an absence of both, and where the black houses did go in 
for ornament, one was glad that it happened so seldom. Here and 
there the older Arabian architecture showed what beauty could be 
achieved in the country's traditional style ; and the site with its vol- 
canic background, the opaline bay and sharpness of Little Aden's 
then still solitary outline, and its inlets and skyline of Yemeni hills 
(seen only at sunrise) was such as might delight die architect's 
heart. Against it the ugly streets leaned, the bank and the gothic of 
the church emerged with a few of the more prosperous stores, the 
hospital and the Governor's residence were run up in an untidy way 
as objects of minor importance, and the whole clustering round the 
Prince of Wales' Pier managed in spite of all to touch one with an 
absurd tenderness for the tenacity that pieces together a small travesty 
of England in any unlikely corner. 

My little trader purred down here early in November along the 
Red Sea highway, and every turn of the engine brought us more 
dreamily out of the atmosphere of war. The dim and rustling 
waters, the tropical night that moves in shadows from star to star, as 
yet held no menace. The small western towns of Arabia twinkled 
carelessly on their flat shore. Only at Perim, when we turned its 


signal, did we realize that from here eastward the continent lay unlit : 
black with bony ridges like a limb of Satan, it was cradled in the 
darkness which it had known for ages ; the searchlights played their 
flickering fugues across the bay of Aden, and traffic had to wait to 
enter with the dawn. 

It is difficult to put oneself back into the world as I then saw it, and 
the Arab world in particular. ' In Arabia,' I wrote at that time, ' there 
is something of the same state of mind as once obtained among the 
Greeks : a sense of kinship loosely held, constantly infringed by par- 
ticular divergences but kept alive by such general events as the 
Olympic Games in one case and the pilgrimage to Mecca in the 

other Their pan-Arabism we think of as Utopia, and it may be 

so: but a strong and united Arabia would be to our interest; its 
divisions are a source of danger and an occasion for intrigue ; and 
even if the dream of federation is a dream for the future, and a misty 
one at that, it is well for us to do all we can to further it, using to 
their full extent the three great assets for unity they have the com- 
mon language and religion, and the consciousness of common in- 
terests we can help to encourage The main danger that threatens 

is foreign interference . . . and it is fairly obvious that we shall very 
soon require an Arabia as strong, as peaceful and as favourable to us 
as we can get.' 1 

I mentioned Egypt at that time, 'independent, prosperous and 
friendly' ; Saudi Arabia at peace and 'the Yemen coming to under- 
stand the difference between a satisfied and an unsatisfied (Italian) 
neighbour' ; Iraq 'unique in being a kingdom imagined, fashioned 
and established by an alien race* ; the whole of the eastern coast and 
the whole of the southern loyal in friendship ; and even Palestine, 
tossed and troubled for several thousand years, less unhappy than a 
century or so ago. * Not all has been done by Britain ; but all has been 
made possible by the mere fact that she is interested in the integrity 
of Arabia. If anyone doubts this, let him look at the map of Europe 
and think how different the fate of many small nations might have 
been if our commerce had made it necessary for us to keep their 
frontiers safe/ 

It will be seoi that I was what is called an imperialist, with perhaps 

1 Chatham House lecture, February 1939. 


some reservations. 'We have, since the First World War, admitted 
one important new idea into our theory of empire : we have accepted 
it as a trust that is temporary and does not interfere with people's 
final independence . . . and our chances are now bound up with that 
theory. It means that in Arabia, as elsewhere, our guardianship is not 
static; it allows a sort of elasticity for growth. Many in England 
seem to think of empire as a possession we hold external to ourselves. 
But those who labour for it and in it mostly look upon it as an op- 
portunity for service. I believe these are right, and if all felt in this 
way our foundations would stand against all storms, nor would it 
be possible in such a commonwealth . . . ever to think of lopping off 
any branch against its will, whatever the race to which it might 

Such principles are now taken to be typical of a new and more 
liberal world: yet I shared them with practically every friend in 
Government service some twenty years ago. In Aden and along the 
southern and western coasts our community was made up of such 
people who had influenced these lands through peace and were 
now busy girding them up for war; and our task was made easy 
by the personal popularity of the officials who had laboured here 
before us. 

I think of many of them a tough, innocent and friendly little 
crowd, disciplined by solitude and evenings at the club : of Sir Ber- 
nard Reilly our Governor who, when the need arose, left his golf 
and came to sensible decisions of his own; of Count Bentinck, his 
A.D.C., who was also the cypher officer, kept awake half the nights 
by telegrams. We were all fond of the Count, and made him recite 
the * Waterloo' cantos of Childe Harold whenever a crisis approached, 
and saw him off later to the commandos of the Abyssinian jungle. 
Colonel Lake was Political Secretary when first I arrived, and would 
take me for walks up one little valley and down another in com- 
panionable silence, by beaches spoilt by the new barbed wire, where 
shreds of the old were still rotting since 1914. Harold and Doreen 
Ingrams 1 were in the Secretariat: and there were many others 
police, education, justice and transport; the doctors and hospital 

1 "W. H. Ingrams, C.M.G., O.B.E., British Resident Adviser at Mukalla, S. Arabia, 
1937-40; Acting Governor of Aden 1940. 



nurses; our Air Vice-Marshal 1 and his wife, and the R.A.E who 
lived on the flat ground where flamingoes walked among hillocks of 
salt. Mahrattas danced their torch-dances or wrestled, or climbed in 
patterns over tall poles on their playground; and the I5th Punjabis 
were stationed next to them, whose band we inveigled to learn 
'The Blue Danube' for the Governor's ball. The Navy I came to 
know as I lunched with them daily at the Marina Hotel; and now 
and then, beyond this circle, young men passed in and out from their 
districts, where they lived among the bedawin whom they loved. 
So did we all, and the charm and forthrightness of the South Arabian 
Arabs was perhaps the chief pleasantness of our days. Beside them 
and the official world, I would escape twice a week or so to the old 
town of Crater, to see Hilda Besse and Anton sparkling with gaiety 
and malice. King of the Red Sea coasts and their commerce, and 
living as befitted the manipulator of so many of its complicated 
strings a little and not uncritically apart, he would take me climb- 
ing over the dead crags of Aden, quoting proverbs : 'If the speech is 
sweet, the bananas are dear* or 'The gift of a crow is but a worm' 
(if some nit-wit had annoyed him; for he enjoyed his enemies with 
unfailing gusto). He was distressed at this time because he could not 
help making money during the war ; it piled itself up malgrl moi. He 
too is one of those whom one misses, and St. Antony's College in 
Oxford remains a monument to one of the most vital persons of his 

These were the fringes of life, whose centre for me was our office 
with a balcony over the harbour, a large and open room where 
sparrows nested. Stewart dipped in and out (for much of the work 
was outside) and was gay and easy and would sit on the balcony of 
an evening when the desks were cleared and drink vermouth which 
we could still get from Djibouti and watch the ships slip in or out. I 
bet him twelve bottles that Italy would be against us by the spring. 

I had never lived close to shipping before, and at that time, with 
our hearts so far away, the gliding shapes moving quietly when the 
boom was opened would seem to me like veins that carried our own 
bloodstream across the sick body of the world. The news came 

1 Air Vice^-Marshal Sk Ronald Macfarlane Reid, K.C.B., D.S.O., M.C., Adr Officer 
Commanding British Forces, Aden 1938-41. 


regularly in that first false winter of the war. Pamphlets, pictures, 
letters kind and encouraging and cheerful came pouring from our 
Ministry in London, and there too the group we had left as new 
acquaintances were soon becoming friends and so remained. From 
our side a constant stream was carried, moans for films, wails for 
pictures from Mr. Primrose's 'paths of dalliance' in the photo- 
graphic depaitment, a plan for an Arab college, and another, more 
fortunate, in the same file but resuscitated by later hands to flourish 
in the Lebanon. How comforting is any small result out of the 
Irving forests sacrificed for the making of paper ! Jock Murray 
was getting my book out before he joined the army so much a part 
of my books that I sometimes think he has written them. 'Be very 
careful, fair, conscientious, unbiased, impartial, my dear Jock,' I 
wrote, ' over this heavy responsibility of correcting, which makes you 
the arbiter of my, I hope, semi-immortal reputation 150 years if 
you use the best paper/ 

To my mother I wrote all the pleasant news I could think of to 
amuse her : about riding in starlight before sunrise, and back in time 
for office at nine; * there is only one ride here; no doubt one's 
thoughts can vary it.' About the Governor's ball c with the full moon 
on the terrace behind the Union Jacks, and nearly everyone wearing 
decorations'. About Miss X who has had to lodge with two 
bachelors because *one has to put up with anything in war time'. 
About Christmas, spent as a holiday on the plateau of Dhala, 

... in Alpine air, delicious : it pours in cold and pure through the windows 
at night. The rest-house is a square litde stone building and you look 
from it over a great basin, its rim the hills of Yafa'i and Yemen. The 
enemy country of the upper Yafa'i is there on the skyline, high level hills 
with blue shadows under clouds that float from the sea. No one much has 
been into Upper Yafa'i, but my servant comes from there and thinks he 
might take me if I were not now tied by official ties ; how lovely it would 
be just to go off. We have now been for a walk to a litde Wali saint's 
tomb on a hill. He is not even whitewashed because 'none of his family 
are left' the ancestor worship is here very much mixed with the saints: 
from his altitude, all alone on the edge of the plateau, one looks round at 
pointed or flat-topped hills, ranges and ranges, every gap is filled. On the 
level they grow furrows of qat and eat it all locally. Colonel Lake has 



arrived and inspected our guard of honour, their officers with drawn 
swords before them and the men painted blue with ballet skirts also blue. 
The little boys are left white and are learning to play peaceful cricket, but 
the Yafa'i neighbours have just had nineteen murders over the beating of 
a drum. 

We had one of the best Christmas Days I have ever spent: started off 
in a procession of five horses and a foal, and three donkeys running in and 
out with servants, soldiers, small boys, rugs we wound up three 
thousand feet (we are already six thousand up here) to where the Emir 
has a mountain fort. I think we saw as great a view as anywhere in the 
world mountains studded on their lower peaks with fortress towers, 
with here and there terraces and cultivated hollows, and ahead of us the 
blue wall of the Yemen. At this height there are villages ; a Jewish one we 
passed, the Jews with their curly side-locks grouped on rocks to see us, 
looking very biblical. We looked rather nondescript, except the Count 
in a wide-brimmed hat that might just have come from Biarritz and 
Colonel Lake and Stewart correct and handsome in keffiahs. Our last day 
was as lovely as the rest: Stewart and I doing letters and in the afternoon a 
ride with the Emir and two feudal vassals and about five barefoot soldiers 
among the horses' heels. They are nice little locally-bred mares with 
Jaufi parents, and went deliriously. Next day we saw the Sultan of Lahej 
on the way, and came back to the heavy air and loads of work to deal 

I wrote now and then to our most helpful of chiefs in London, 
Rushbrook Williams, and told him of people weeping at the reading 
of our bulletin in the square. "Many go to listen, but many stay away 
because they cannot bear it." "Why can't they bear it?" I asked. 
"They think what it would be like if their country and their families 
were being treated as the Germans have been treating the Poles." 

On another day I described the censoring (which I usually did) of 
a film just out from England, where a kiss seemed unnecessarily 
prolonged for our simple audience. *"What does it matter?" said 
the Arab manager beside me. "One kisses even one's housekeeper 
when starting on a journey." 9 It was hard to keep pace with the 
sophistication of Asia during the war and has continued to be so ever 

The reading of the news was the climax of our day, and Stewart 
organized it and handed over the writing of it to me when I came. 



Having no newspapers, we recast it in English for the Arabic 
translator, and loosed it from a loud-speaker, after the sunset prayer, 
in the clnie mdctan or open space of the town, where it was pleasant 
to stroll in the mellowness of evening and the darkened houses. The 
cafes at the corners did business under shaded lights. A lantern, 
dimmed with the dust of years, showed the seller of qat (Cathula 
Edulis) from Yemen, brisk at his trade in the leisurely hours. It is a 
mild intoxicant which can only be chewed fresh, and the green tips 
of the boughs are the best. They came in bundles from the northerly 
hills, pitching slowly on camels that usurped the sidewalk. There was 
much coming and going, and yellow splashes from the booths 
showed the city gowns' dilapidated whiteness. The news was now a 
ceremony and Stewart, like a prow in surf, would approach the 
scene through greeting, tossing hands, dive into the police station, 
and be lost among the switches. In a dim harmony under the stars 
the cheerful crowd coloured turbans, Somali caps embroidered 
with birds or fishes, gold-embroidered Indian or black skullcap of 
Parsee would squat in the dust in rows as if it were a theatre. 
Through the fasting month of Ramadhan there had been holy 
readings, chapters from the Quran, before the news was given; but 
after I came we began with music, the slow and plaintive songs of the 
Yemen, accompanied by a lute. It may have been the mere gentle- 
ness of open air, but the notes had a melancholy like the solitary 
songs of country people, like the reaper heard by Wordsworth, 
heard for ever : 

For as she cuts and binds the grain 
She sings a melancholy strain 
Oh listen, for the vale profound 
Is overflowing with the sound. 

These pastoral melodies carry their own loneliness and bring into 
their notes the quiet horizons, the days of seafaring or mountain 
pastures, the empty easy hours of noonday when they were first 
conceived. It was pleasant to have this calm contrasting prelude to 
the European, news, which came dropping slowly in tempered 
accents, for we were lucky to have an announcer with a beautiful 



voice. He picked out every syllable, giving it full value in a way 
that Arabs, who all adore their language, appreciate and understand. 

It is indeed a man's language, so measured, rich, precise and grave; a 
language meant for council or for war. Its emphasis, for one thing, is on 
the verb, which all right living should be. The events of the day, the 
sinking ships, the burning aircraft, the internal horrors of Germany blood- 
stained amid her conquests, the vast slow girding of the loins of resistance : 
they pass before us in phrases which for many centuries have informed the 
Arab peoples of distant vicissitudes of empire. They have spoken of 
Abbassid wars in Spain or Khorasan, of Turkish battles under the walls of 
Vienna, even of those days of dawn when the Prophet's banner first 
moved across the frontiers of Arabia. Perhaps it is this long tradition that 
makes the rows of many-coloured turbans turn with such easy keen 
absorption towards our news. It is no new thing for them to belong to a 
commonwealth that stretches across half the inhabited world in a single 
many-peopled sheaf of nations. 1 

1 From The Times, 2 February 1940. 



Fascists in the Yemen 

Towards the end of 1939 Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, then in Political 
Intelligence, wrote to ask if I could help by letting him know, 'as 
often as you like, how things are going in your part of the world,' 
especially in regard to the Yemen where our propaganda was said 
to be nil while the Germans were active, and the Italians active and 
pro-German. 'In consequence it is stated that ninety per cent of 
Yemen is in favour of Germany. Do you think this an exaggera- 
tion ? . . . I see that the Imam intends to maintain his neutrality, but 
he is an old man and life must be precarious in those parts. I have 
no background and will be very grateful if you can supply it. . . / 

Dear Ken (I answered), 1 

Our Intelligence is filled with sorrow at the thought that the P.O. has 
not got the Yemen on its finger-tips ; it appears that files and files about it 
are reposing at the Colonial Office and you might give them a look. 

Aden and Hadhramaut are, as you say, satisfactory ... the Yemen we 
have hardly touched and may count it as a Fascist preserve . . . This is, 
in my view, entirely our own fault. The Italians should naturally be 
disliked there (and so they are in a subterranean way). Italy is more 
dangerous to them than we are, and her power would not be great enough 
to make her feared if we were anxious to prevent it. The fault is not here ; 
our hands are tied and we have to sit still under every infringement of 
gentlemen's and every other agreement. Now this seems to me quite 
idiotic (if you will forgive the unofficial language) . . . Italy in being with 
us or against consults her own interests entirely: and the Yemen is not a 
sufficiently big one to sway her into enmity on its account alone. Her 
policy is being shaped in Europe; we can safely use her preoccupations 
there just as she is using ours to consolidate ourselves out here. 

We are far too prone to say : * Italy doesn't matter.' We said it in 193 5 

1 8 December 1940. 



when, by attending to her in time, we could at any rate have saved our- 
selves the trouble of the Abyssinian war. Even when that started, in 
1937, very few realized its implications, but in three years' time the threat 
which had been obvious years before had become a commonplace. The 
same thing is happening now. Nobody thinks much of her penetration in 
the Yemen but what is the point of allowing it unnecessarily when we 
could so easily put a stop to it? I do not suggest being provocative: but 
I do suggest a riposte to every Italian step, however veiled and the result 
would be satisfactory not only as regards the Yemen but as regards Italy : 
the one way to impress on her the value of our friendship is to accentuate 
such powers as we have of being disagreeable if we wish. We are 
thoroughly bad at dealing with Italians, chiefly because we insist on treat- 
ing the whole country as Fascist, whereas we have there (far more than in 
Germany) a small governing faction which will always be anti-British at 
heart, and the larger number which, if Fascism is overturned but not 
otherwise, would easily become genuinely friendly. 

I hope to go up to the Yemen in seven or eight weeks' time if this can 
be managed. The idea is to sit there, rectify rumours, and alter the 
atmosphere as much as one can from the standpoint of female insignifi- 
cance, which has its compensations, and Sir Bernard and Stewart Perowne 
have both agreed to this with their usual broadmindedness. It was in fact 
only because of the Yemen that I was allowed to come from Cairo at all. 
I may not be able to do anything ; everyone says it is very difficult, but I 
shall enjoy going. 

The plan was particularly to smuggle in, and to show, a portable 
cinema a religiously forbidden object which could at that time make 
some noticeable difference to opinion. At the beginning of February, 
in a lorry with cook, servant, three men, and the cinema unmen- 
tioned among my suitcases, I made the six-day journey from Aden, 
up the torrent beds of the northern frontier which was all the road 
there was, to the sub-capital of Ta'iz, down to the sandy Tihama, 
through Mocha with its fort and few straggling houses on the 
sands, through Beit el-Faqih and other brick-built decayed for- 
gotten seats of learning, to Hodeidah, and thence to the plateau and 
San'a the capital, refreshingly cooled with high showers after the 
heat of Aden. 




It is difficult to recapture the feeling of danger which hovered over 
the Red Sea coastlands in those years when Mussolini's schemes were 
in the ascendant. These were unrolling themselves in a perfectly 
consistent policy of which the stages were marked in Libya, the 
Dodecanese, and covertly in Egypt; and the Abyssinian war only 
accentuated what had been the actual state of affairs for a long time. 
The Italian propaganda increased steadily. When I first travelled 
about the Hadhramaut in 1934 I heard of only a little bribery in 
ministerial circles, but during my second visit, in 1937, practically 
every trouble there was had some Fascist flavour about it. As these 
Arabs emigrated for a living from their poor and scanty valleys, many 
found their way to Eritrea, where their being British caused them 
numerous vexations. But when the Abyssinian war came to an end, 
the Italian Government noticed that we had meanwhile completed 
the transfer of Aden from the Indian Government to the Colonial 
Office; and discovered with some disgust and for the first time 
that we were in peaceful possession of the long strip of country 
which stretches half-way across the Indian Ocean seaboard. We had 
long had rights here, but had done nothing to implement them, and 
the Hadhramaut was still marked yellow and not red on most of the 
maps, a fact which they apparently noticed with annoyance : that 
we should not trouble to colour our own possessions on our own 
maps must have been irritating to a country exhausting the resources 
of publicity in the new gloss of empire. 

The Yemen was a far more serious proposition, and increasingly 
so with the gathering threat of war. In the years gone by, one 
pounce had already been tried on Hodeidah, and had been thwarted 
by a British sloop under a commander not afraid to make up his 
mind in a crisis. Mussolini, manoeuvring like a cobra with a lizard, 
now presented the Imam with a gift of guns placed just beyond our 
frontier in the north. We were poorly situated, since we could pre- 
pare no sort of defence without offending the Yemeni ruler. In any 
case we had nothing much for defence at our disposal. Italian doctors 
scattered about the country in four useful places were all accom- 
panied by technicians with sub-military equipment, while we could 
only send two very unarmed doctors, and Colonel Lake on a brief 
official visit. Because of this threatening background I had been 



spoken to in Cairo by friends in the army, who pressed ^100 for 
expenses upon me, and suggested that I should go. My only private 
reason for not doing so was my mother, who had moved back to 
our Italian home : but private reasons carry little weight in war, and 
I knew what she would have wished. The distinction between Fas- 
cists and Italians, so difficult for our people to grasp, was plain 
enough to us who lived among them : almost all the friends we had 
there would have checkmated Mussolini if they could, nor did they 
want a victory which would turn their country into a German 
province in its wake; and now without an excuse in the world we 
were threatened, nor did my conviction falter for a moment that 
Italy would attack us when she could. "The Anglo-Italian friend- 
ship,' someone said at that time, 'is the friendship of the English for 
the Italians.' And my feelings about the Fascists were (and are) 
expressed by Benedetto Croce, who said that they could never be 
intelligent and honest, for 'if a Fascist is honest he is not intelligent ; 
if he is intelligent, he is not honest; and if he is both intelligent and 
honest, he is not a Fascist'. For this reason I use a word which has had 
some of its venom dusted over by time, but is more appropriate to 
the people I was to meet in the Yemen than the name of a country 
I love. 

In San'a the walled city gates were still locked every evening. In 
the one of the three quarters where the Turks had built agreeable 
little houses, H.H. die Imam turned out his Director of Artillery to 
provide me with a lodging. Here I spent six weeks, learning my 
first lesson in the dregs of propaganda. As this is the subject of my 
book, and as these weeks conditioned the whole of my later work, 
my letters to Stewart in Aden are left to describe them. 

SAN* A 8 February 1940 
Dear Stewart, 

I have come back from a pleasant tea-drinking with the Qaclhi 1 and 
his charming chief wife. It is one of the ridiculous superstitions that 
orientals are not fond of their wives : she is no longer young, but so lively 
and sensitive and temperamental in a pleasant way that he is obviously 

1 Qadhi Muhammad Raghib, the travelled and cultured Minister for Foreign 


devoted to her. She could hardly bear to talk of the war the thought of 
women and children drowning (which we are in danger of considering 
as a part of journalism) genuinely upsets her. So we talked of Stambul 
instead, and cherry orchards. We have arranged to call together on the 
wife of Prince Qasim, who will then arrange a visit to the royal harim. 
I described my cinema, but said I did not like to show it unless the Imam 
permitted. An offensive was then directed on the Qadhi in Turkish: the 
harim insist on seeing it and we are going to have a small private soiree in 
his house. I do hope you will be able to feed me with films. 

I am sending our own Queen's photograph as a present, wrapped in a 
chiffon veil embroidered with silver, to Mme Qadhi. 

Do you like to hear all this gossip every day or does it bore you ? 

p February 1940 

The chief Jewish merchant came to call and tells me that Colonel 
Lake was exchanging nine eastern oases for Sheikh Sa'id [the point near 
our frontier which the Italians had just supplied with guns]. I did my best 
to rectify this monstrosity and he then took me to his house and is going 
to find you a beautiful janbiya [dagger] : is there anything else you want ? 
The head of police came to call. His name is Hanesh. He went away 
with his hand on his heart saying my Arabic is bulbul (alas it is not !) and 
would I count on the police in any difficulty whatsoever? 

I am beginning to disentangle four among my bodyguard of soldiers. 
They get six dollars a month, with good bread for sergeants and bad for 
the rank and file. Poor people, and they comfort themselves with qat. 

Nagi [my cook] has just been advising me. * All things in Arabia/ he 
says, *are done by the harim; get them to wish what you wish, and you 
will get it/ It might be said anywhere. Anyway we hope for the cinema. 

10 February 1940 

I am feeling awfully tired : I hope it is not malaria as, if it is, the doctors 
say cheerfully it is bound to be malignant. I think it really comes from 
losing my sleep today so as to translate King George's telegram into 
Arabic. Any time would do, they said, but I thought you might like 
something expeditious in Aden. After that Mme Qadhi came here and 
was staggered by the print of our navy which I took from my wall. * No 
wonder/ she said, 'that a few ships more or less make no difference to 
you/ She then took me to a sumptuous tea with Prince Qasim' s wife and 
two most charming red-cheeked boys dressed grown-up with daggers in 
their diminutive sashes over dark blue gowns. It is worth being an Arab 


child to be allowed a real dagger at your waist at the age of five. As we 
sat a thunderstorm poured over us, and as we came back through the 
twilight everything smelt good. I thought of you with a pang in the heat 
of Aden. Everything will be at its very best here they say in a month's 

I hope to go to the Imam's harim next week. One cannot hurry. 
The Arab town and suq are fantastic with their decorated houses, but, 
for real beauty, I think no one with any taste can fail to prefer the Had- 
hramaut. The ornament here is plastered on and far too much ; there, the 
sense of proportion and value is always exquisite : here it is the inheritance 
of those South Arabian profiteers getting more and more debased. If one 
felt feverish it would turn into a nightmare. As it is, I think it most 
beautiful seen through a mist of blossom from my roof. 

Tomorrow the cinema is to be shown to the Qadhis and Prince Qasim. 
The thought of having to do the speaking makes me feel slightly sick. 

12 February 1940 

I am writing from bed, having gone under completely, what with the 
colossal dinner given yesterday and the effort of the cinema after. You 
can't guess half the agony it is to me to speak in public, and when I 
showed Nagi how to start the engine and the thing actually went I felt 
like one of those amateurs who succeed in calling up the Devil ! But it 
went without a hitch and Prince Qasim talked about the rule of the waves 
for the rest of the evening. For the first time since coming up here I was 
told how necessary it is to strengthen our friendship with the Arabs. He 
asked me: 'Do not the Italians rule the Mediterranean?' I said, 'You 
would hardly call yourself a ruler in a house when someone else has both 
the front and back door keys ? ' and I could see the really tremendous effect 
of the film afterwards. But whether I shall be able to show it more widely 
is very doubtful. 

PS. I am sure the first idea of a Turkish mosque came to someone who 
saw two cypress trees, one on either side of a small round hill. I look out 
at such a landscape and it is like Saint Sophia with a minaret on either side 
of the dome. 

13 February 1940 
The Royal Family must see the cinema tomorrow night. You are 

implored to send more films. I am to go at 7.30 p.m. and, as far as I can 
see, spend the night there. Do wish me luck. If you knew how I wish it 


were you ! But I am pleased, and hope you will give me a pat on the back, 
for walking on eggs has not been in it these days. 

The Qadhi sat for a long talk on frontiers, [the Yemeni-Aden fron- 
tier] all very hopeful of a friendly solution. He said: 'While Reilly was 
in Aden nothing ever happened ; when he goes on leave these young men 
want to make themselves conspicuous and there are forty troubles at 
once. They say Lake is old-fashioned they do not know that it takes 
forty years of kind manners to make oneself beloved/ It would indeed be 
criminal not to send Colonel Lake here when he is free, and you can quote 
my words as much as you like. 

The invaluable Nagi meanwhile has been teaching the Imam to make 
butter. I send him out in the morning to chat in the royal majlis, and there 
they were pouring fresh milk into an Italian butter machine; nothing 
happened ; try again ; then Nagi stepped out and said the milk must be one 
day old and saved the situation. So that in a week we have made butter, 
have translated King George's telegram and have shown the British Navy 
to the ladies of San'a. It makes one feel like a dictionary. 

14 February 1940 

I enclose out of my mail a PS. from my mother to show you prices 
in Italy it might make an item in the bulletin ? All copper there is being 
requisitioned for shell-rings ! Another letter from Italy looks very like 
war in the spring. 

I never thought to rise to such heights as to draw the German radio ! 
What fun! By the way Mama writes that the B.B.C. is now being 
listened to all over northern Italy and much appreciated. 

I have had a charming visit from the Governor of San'a, a cheerful 
old boy, voluminous in white silk dressing-gown embroidered with 
yellow flowers. We went over the usual ground the hudud [frontiers] 
and Palestine. I pointed out to him the advantages of having us as 
neighbours. What the old boy answered was : 'If we got rid of the Turks, 
who know how to fight, don't you think we could deal with the Italians 
ourselves >* 

We then talked about Himyarites and Marib, and looked at the Navy 
picture which is a perfect godsend. I tried to defend our Cabinet from 
charges of corruption (rather amusing as coming from him !) and told 
him it couldn't be judged by people like So-and-so who came from no 
noble house. So he told me the story of some Muslims who asked 
Muhammad how they might know that the Day of Judgement was near. 
'By the fact/ said the Prophet, 'that the reins of government are in the 


hands of the lowest of the low/ I pointed out several states in Europe 
where the Day of Judgement may reasonably be expected, and he pointed 
out that Musso's father was a blacksmith. This rather snobbish argument 
is almost the most effective of all. I shall be able to write a treatise on 
propaganda when I get back. 

15 February 1940 

Am a shattered wreck again after last night, but it went off without 
a hitch except for one ghastly moment when the engine wouldn't start 
and I felt as one does on the doorstep of the dentist. Nagi could be allowed 
only as near the harim as the court below, with the engine-cord coming 
up through a window, and I had to cope upstairs in dimness and tumult ; 
wives, daughters, female servants and Princes of the Blood all seething 
round me. The Imam, himself, I suppose I shall never see as women are 
beneath him, but his two wives were there (the elder Fatima; so very 
nice) and four daughters-in-law, three sons and at least five daughters. 

The microphone explosions were the greatest success. Do impress 
how vital it is for us to have lots of good 16 mm. films. Ordinary Life in 
Edinburgh is the present rather surprising favourite: they adore it -just 
people walking up and down Princes Street ! When the performance was 
over, I showed them which of the ships they had been seeing (on the map 
of the Navy, which I left for them to talk over with the Imam). I don't 
really think it matters not seeing the Imam himself, so long as one gets to 
the harim: the two wives live in two separate palaces, the Palace of Hap- 
piness (for the elder one) and of Thankfulness for the younger, with a 
garden between them so that they can see each other and live *as sisters' 
and the Imam is very fair and stays one month with each. It seemed to me 
that there was a lot to be said for this arrangement, but Fatima says it is 
worrying to see one's husband's heart go wobbling to and fro. It is 
awfully hard work to combine social affability with the running of the 
cinema all by oneself, but I sat afterwards and chatted over this and that. 
I don't really like the job, because I hate having to be pleasant with a 
purpose I mean going out to make oneself liked irrespective of whether 
one really wants to like people. As soon as a real liking comes it is all 
right, but otherwise it makes one feel rather like a commercial traveller 
with the rival firm round the corner. However, I think it is a good work, 
both for them and for us, and I believe the sight of the Navy has really 
done something. The children had great fun talking through the micro- 

Today I am meeting all the foreign colony here. 



16 February 1940 
Darling B. [my mother], 

Yesterday I went again to work the little cinema in the house of the 
second Queen, very young and pretty but gauche, dressed in white and 
tinsel. They wear charming indoor clothes, long to the ground, gathered 
at the waist, sleeves with cuffs, just like dolls, and white panties with frills 
to the ankles. Sometimes they wear a tight-waisted coat of brocade, like 
a riding-coat, and their heads are wrapped in chiffon and tinsel swathed 
to the neck, or else they tie two handkerchiefs, one under the chin and 
one like a circlet round the brows. The smaller girls wear little pointed 

I went to see the Friday review. Most of the troops are barefoot and 
the whole thing lasts four hours, and they showed no sign of fatigue. The 
Syrian pasha was smart on a white horse and watched them; he has been 
training the reserve who serve four months and then go to their homes, 
and after only two months they came by in quite creditable style. They 
look poor compared with the ironlike Turkish soldiers, but the people here 
think a great deal of them. They wound through the gate in the dust with 
slanting rifles over their dust-coloured tunics and shirts 2 pale yellow 
handkerchief on their heads, with a scented sprig inside it. The crowd 
that watches is not very large, the Imam's orphans in saffron yellow, and 
Sayyids in striped gowns, their sleeves hanging a foot or so below the 
hands : when they want to do anything they tie them at the back of their 
necks to free themselves up to the elbows. What was strange, was how 
little the modern weapons, the slanting bayonets, the guns and machine- 
guns, affected tie medieval look the round towers in the background, 
die varied faces, the dull, sun-bleached lovely colours. The men, they 
say, love the Imam and think to go to heaven if they die serving him, 
because of his holiness. He is everything in their country. I went along a 
street and they said it was the 'Street of Ghouls* and there used to be 
ghouls, but they have all left since the coming of the Imam. 

16 February 1940 
My dear Stewart, 

Nothing new has happened except that I have finally got an *alim to 
read with me every morning: he preaches in mosques on Fridays and I 
have promised to send him stuff from Aden to inspire him in his sermons : 
a few words, he says, are enough for him to embroider to any extent, and 
he treats me, as Mr. Gladstone Queen Victoria, like a public meeting. 


I returned the Governor of SanYs call and was pleased to hear 
all my own sentiments about the Germans served back as original 
thoughts ! 

I have written you a little report. I would much rather you improved 
it and have no wish that it should go about in my own name. If you 
agree, I think it ought to go at once; if Italy does mean mischief, every 
week here will count. 

The Fascists are bringing all their guns to bear against me. Nagi says 
'their hearts are boiling* long may they boil. But, dear Stewart, I do 
dislike this job. 

You can't think what riff-raff the Fascists have got here ! I met the 
whole colony (except the one who has left) and you never saw such an 
unenticing lot. There are three innocent young men, but the rest just the 
worst, commonest and low products of the regime. The only person I took 
to was a German ( ?), who sat chatting about antiquities. He comes from 
Egypt and goodness knows what he really is. His German is very bad, and 
he evidently thinks in Arabic. He is a nice dishonest man I should say and 
tells me he is the only one here trusted by the Imam ! One hopes, as the 
Egyptian Government sent him, that we saw to it that he is not anti- 

I hardly know how to break it to you that he says he can quite easily 
arrange for me to go to Marib I 1 A woman, he says, is possible as long as 
a woman attendant goes too. I have no idea whether he really can, but 
anyway will keep it over to the very end ; you must come, even if you 
have to dress in a crinoline. I shall not press the matter at all, but cannot 
humanly resist if it is offered. 

The things in the Yemen that I longed to see, these cities of Sheba 
and their like, could not be pursued while I was busy with the mag- 
nates of the capital. As in most Arab countries, they themselves 
found their nomad tribes quite as difficult as a visitor might have 
found them, and all exploration had to be renounced. San'a mean- 
while went on ringing with my cinema. 

I soon showed it to the royal harim about fifty women and the 
Imam himself probably looking through some crack, while the Fas- 
cists, who had spent weeks getting permission to import a mere 
wireless, were more furious than even 

1 The pre-Islamic capital of Sheba. 



18 February 1940 
My dear Stewart, 

I had a charming visit from the son of the Governor of San'a, full of 
enthusiasm about ancient Himyarites and so friendly. After the usual 
complaint about Palestine (absolutely universal from both friends and 
enemies) he said what is very true: *The peasants and tribes here do not 
even know there is a war between England and Germany; but they have 
all given their money for the Palestine revolt, and they all take an interest 
in that.' 

Both my visitors' harims have sent messages clamouring for the 
cinema. The Qadhi's younger wife told me that when she lies down to 
sleep the pictures pass before her eyes every evening. 

I am feeling awfully unwell, and after wondering if it was incipient 
malaria, now believe it is the height and keep as quiet as I can. It does 
apparently often affect people. 

21 February 1940 
Darling B. 

I paid a pathetic visit today to my landlady, a gay little elderly Turkish 
barrel of a woman, with a silver-embossed belt very tight over a yellow- 
and-black striped silk, bunched as if it were the middle of a bolster, and an 
orange head-scarf above. She is kind and friendly and brought a present 
of two agates and told me such a sad story. Her thirteen babies all died, 
so she adopted two girls as her own and lived happily in a big house with 
her husband who looks after the King's cannon. Then one girl died; and 
the other suddenly left and went to the house of one of the King's sons and 
works there like a servant. I saw her there ; she is very pretty and seemed 
happy, with something rather resentful about her. And my poor litde 
woman was wiping away tears as she told me, and really has very litde to 
live for, here in a strange land for forty-five years. 

I did the cinema again last night and fed tired : the high air has sent my 
wretched blood-pressure bang down, and I long to be in Aden to feel 
normal again. How lucky I am in this war : not a single week of tedium 
since it started ! How few can say that- and I fed sure that tedium is the 
real horror of war the hours and days wasted, the doing of something 
quite out of the stream of one's life. I have been lucky enough to carry on 
what I have been aiming at for many years, and indeed to find now the 
hdp and comradeship which I never had before. Personally it has been a 
great increase of happiness. I hope too that we are succeeding. 


21 February 
My dear Stewart, 

Your letters are my great and only pleasure. I should hate it if you 
became conceited all through me so I hasten to add that very few other 
pleasures are available. 

Last night we had a delightful evening in the house of the Governor, 
turning to Berlin on the radio to hear if all the ships we had just been 
seeing in the cinema had been sunk. They are sunk by the Germans 
regularly once a week; I explained this and can't help noticing that 
Berlin is less credited than it was. 

This morning my teacher arrived with a second savant who had 
refused to believe that a Mullah would come to read Tabari with a woman. 
So we had a seance rather like Les Predeuses, so very high-falutin, with 
florid phrases turn and turn about, and I listened while my teacher told us 
the state of Europe : he has a wonderful memory, almost every word was 
repeated. The only inaccuracy was that he insisted on my being an M.P. 
(because I had described how Parliament opens with prayers) and all my 
istaghfar Allahs were of no avail. 

22 February 1940 

I think you ought to have an Arab harim you would enjoy it. When 
the Master enters, all the women (who have been chattering like bulbuls) 
fall silent: not a whisper (except the chaos outside where people have 
mislaid teacups and things). If he desires solitude, he waves them away; 
if he feels sociable, they bring him his hookah, and sit round agreeing with 
all he says (which I should hate myself) and, however they may fed, they 
always look amiable. If the war is going to last for three years, you ought 
to think about it : you could have four, and lots of relations, and get rid of 
them simultaneously with no trouble at all at the end ! The Governor of 
San'a was pleased when I compared him with Abraham ! 

I have just been listening to the Berlin radio a speech on the Imam 
by one Saki Kerim: its effect would have been greater if he had not 
absconded from this country with 500 dollars. 

I have been to visit the Qadhi, who really is a dear, about your coming 
and hope to hear tonight. I said all sorts of nice things about you, but 
what carried most weight was the fact of your being the son of a bishop. 
Nothing, he said, could be more suitable for the Yemen and asked if you 
wore a turban. I said you were too young for anything more exalted than 
a Keffiak \ A propos of bishops, could you let me have the Navy prayer 
(even six copies typed) as everyone here has been very pleased to hear 
about it and it explains our victories. 



23 February 1940 

The pseudo- German asked me to tea. He appears to have none of the 
Public School virtues; it is only my penchant for scamps, I rather fear, 
which makes me like him. I tried him, in halting French, German, Italian 
and Arabic and at last found he spoke fluent Russian, born in Dresden, 
childhood in Kiev, educated Switzerland, years in Egypt, emigrated to 
America and now here : no Public School virtue would stand that ! 

The Fascists have been made to close a shop they had opened for the 
sale of literature and all the Italian flags distributed to riders on bicycles 
have been abolished. I helped them with information about the fortifica- 
tions of Aden, and told them it was now almost as strong as the Rock of 
Gibraltar (those poor barbed wires!) and described an imaginary 
(German) fleet wiped off the surface of the bay by cannon fire every week 
for practice. Unfortunately I couldn't remember where anything was or 
even how the troops were housed: they were all over, and so many new 
ones coming and going, one couldn't keep count. After that we left 
politics and turned to literature. The three young ones are so delighted 
with anything in the shape of a woman in San'a that they have thrown 
politics to the winds and lay themselves out to be pleasant. Perhaps they 
may become anti-Fascists ! 

A little deputation just appeared two small boys in gold-embroidered 
skull-caps asking for the cinema. I would not show it unless they got a 
rukhsa [permit] from the Imam, but we pulled crackers instead and tried 
the fireworks inside. They have such nice manners. 

23 February 1940 
Darling B. 

The Jews here remand one, with their silky curls and soft eyes and lips 
and long gowns and barefoot walk, of the conventional picture of Christ. 
They are so intelligent, and this great plateau, held by Religion, is very 
like a prison for them. I went to one of their weddings yesterday. The 
bride of twelve was an idol, her hands blue with indigo, her breast 
pkstered with gold necklaces and silver beads as big as eggs, and in the 
middle, hanging to a gold torque, a triangular thing like a pincushion 
covered with gilt coins. Wedding guests are allowed to try the bride's 
bonnet on at a dollar a time. 

26 February 1940 
My dear Stewart, 

The Qadhi came and sat for two hours this morning, going through 



the whole story of Anglo-French relations from the time of Edward VII, 
with extraordinary knowledge and insight. I then had my Mullah, with a 
Koranic reader from the Great Mosque, and his brother a judge. We had 
your bulletins and I was anxious to get the opinion of these poetic experts. 
I am sorry to say that their chief criticism was the badness of the printing: 
you will have to bring yourself to say a word, light as thistledown, to the 
incomparable Ali. 

In the afternoon I sat in my daily harim and had my fortune told in 
a coffee-cup ; came back in time for a visit from the King's goldsmith and 
then from my 'Pseudo* who is lending me his house for a general cinema 
show, European and Arab, on Thursday. I don't quite know what 
language to have : two of the Princes have asked to come, so I think there 
must be an Arabic version, but the presence of all the Axis is rather cramp- 

Your bulletins came open. If there was a letter, it had fallen out. I 
have made a bit of a fuss, as it is very careless (if that is the word). 

I have been sent the most delightful book of Chinese philosophy, and 
feel I need it all. 

28 February 1940 

As if there were not difficulties enough to deal with, our poor tele- 
graph man yesterday fell and drowned himself in a well the sort of thing 
one only expects to happen in Ruthless Rhymes. He was a friendly mild 
creature (and I had lavished bakhshish on him.) and it always gives one an 
unpleasant shock when the unsafety of the world is brought home to one. 
I find he charged twenty-two dollars for my telegram, but even so, 
Providence seems to have been drastic. 

I have your telegram and have replied. Everything English that is not 
understood here goes to Mme Favetti to be translated (you may tell Mr. 
Howes in case he doesn't know !) so I have been rather obscure, but not I 
hope for your ingenious mind. 

It is awful to live in this intriguing atmosphere, with everyone practi- 
cally pro-German. I go as carefully as I can, but the very fact of being 
successful rouses the other side: I no longer hear that Germany will win 
the war; the cry is 'Poor little Germany, so much weaker, why drive her 
to despair?' 

Yesterday I had a call at 8.45 ; paid a harim visit ; back for my Mullah 
at ii ; call from Sayyid and arrange for cinema; rest till 5 ; three veiled 
ladies to tea; call with them on new neighbours ; cinema to the Sayyid'' s 
harim after dinner ; typical day ! It is most amusing to see the difference 



of a Great Man in his own home ; you find him sitting in happy deshabille 
in what looks like a kte Victorian nightdress ; he then goes wandering 
about, picks up a gown here, a scarf there, gold cap and turban,/<zn&fytf and 
belt, and goes out the venerable immaculate you see in the Majliss: all 
done -while entertaining the lady visitor ! 

This morning I have had the head of police, always rather a nerve- 
racking visit but it was only to quote poetry as far as I could see. 

2p February 1940 

A Hodeidah mailbag with Phyllis's letter of the 20th has come, but 
nothing from you. If it is just natural forgetfulness, it is horrid, and if 
your letter has been pinched, it is worrying. The envelope sent overland 
with bulletins was opened; the aged postman is an Albanian who wants 
an Italian passport. 

i March 1940 

The fat has been sizzling in the fire or, in other words, the hearts of 
the Fascists have, as Nagi prophesied, boiled over. It all began yesterday 
morning when their Lady Doctor (both nouns doubtful) found me 
chatting in the house of the Heir Apparent which is their preserve. We 
were, however, on friendly terms, and cordial, and I went as usual on 
Thursday to their general tennis reception, and left on the understanding 
that they were to come at eight to a neighbouring house for my cinema 
all except a fat little man called Rossi who was outside and to whom I 
repeated my polite message when I met him. Would you believe it, he 
boiled over then and there: said he was the head of the mission and I 
should have given the show in their house. As he went on blustering, I 
said that if we were to be formal, I would not even know of his existence 
till he had called on me whereupon he simply frothed, said he had called 
on Colonel Lake (as if it were a concession) but that I was just a supposed 
tourist (long pause before the word) and that he had been very polite in 
asking me to their house ! ! Whereupon I could but bow in as lofty a way 
as is possible for a small person, and retire, and the whole of the Italian 
Mission missed the cinema (the Favettis came, and are very upset about 
the incident) . The silly little man remarked that * We are the cfefpeople 
here' which (as I have been saying to all who gossip) is not particularly 
polite in someone else's land. The extraordinary effect is that this morning 
even strangers beam at me in the street. 

Tomorrow we give a show to the harim of the Amir aljeish. 



3 March 1940 

There is no doubt that the Italians here expect war with us. They 
think of the place as completely in their pocket: Favetti yesterday said, 
'if one can come to an arrangement (i.e. give Italy chunks of whatever she 
wants) you will be able to come up again and we shall be able to go to 
Aden.' (I believe he said it without noticing.) I think they are out for my 
blood, and only hope H.M.G. will support my mother when she is turned 
out of house and home. 

Yesterday a man came for me and the cinema, saying he was from the 
Beit al Wazk. Luckily I suspected, and insisted on seeing the Imam's 
permit, and he went away: that is the second try-on. 

I hope I shall not find you worn to a thread ! 

Quotation from my Chinese book: 'It is only the upper classes that 
can maintain their principles without a settled income'. 

I was now hoping to leave and waiting impatiently for the arrival 
of Mr. Champion 1 , then District Commissioner in Galilee, who 
later became Governor of Aden. He had been proposed and accepted 
as a visitor to the Yemen to discuss the matter of the Shabwa frontier. 
This boundary, meandering through history and geography, ob- 
scure and until quite recently unidentified, has been a recurring 
source of contention like nearly all desert boundaries whose scanty 
supply of water and of grazing makes them subject to the wandering 
of tribes. I sometimes think that more than half the troubles of 
governments come through the effort to impose fixed barriers on 
what nature has made fluid : it must at all events be remembered that 
all normal people will break through a frontier rather than die of 
hunger or of thirst whether it be the crossing of the Danube in the 
decline of Rome or the watering of camels at illicit desert wells. Mr. 
Champion delayed as if the Colonial Office had become oriental : 
'they had got all the reception here ready,' I wrote, 'and denuded 
me even of soup-plates ; and you know how bad it is when expecta- 
tion falls flat.' 

The Fascist efforts to get rid of me had now become more and 
more harassing; and a letter, which Aden rashly sent up in an 
O.H.M.S. envelope, had been opened and caused me some trouble. 
Life went on however, filled with picturesqueness and intrigue. 

1 Now the Rev. Sir Reginald Stuart Champion, K.C.M.G. 



5 March 1940 
Darling B. 

Little pitfalls are laid for my every step. I do hope they won't take it 
out of you. 

I spend my time sitting about in houses rooms with cushions down 
three sides, all covered, and the floor too, with bad rugs. In the middle 
a brass tray holds hookahs, spittoons, stands for water-bottles (which are 
needed when chewing qat which makes one thirsty), old rough boxes for 
tobacco inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and a few brass candlesticks, all this 
kept very bright and nice. Niches round the walls with an untidy little 
assortment of teapots, papers, and scents: the gilt daggers and their 
brocade belts hang on nails. Cushions all round the walls. And every 
window shut. 

It is easy and pleasant, and entertaining goes on all day. One sits down, 
covering one's legs decently; 'How are you? Well, please God?' 'Praise 
be to God. How are you yourself?* The women all gather; then the 
children; the servants in a corner; until the Master announces himself and 
the visiting ladies have to scatter. They marry at the age of seven and 
onwards, beget children about twelve, and then, when they grow old, 
throw off their cares and every regard for their appearance and become 
really cheerful. The fat old lady who takes me round with so much 
gaiety is sixty-five ; I pleased her by guessing forty-five (quite honestly) 
and she pulled out her breasts and patted them to show that they were still 
'firm as a girl's*. 

5 March 1940 
My dear Stewart, 

Socotra sounds like that peep into Paradise of the fairy-tale (only I am 
glad you did not find yourself three hundred years old when you came 
back) . Relieved, too, to think you had that interlude. 

Surely you are right about the Arab. We are drawn to him because 
his sense of values is not material; even when he takes bribes he does it 
light-heartedly; he doesn't sit and concentrate on heaps of money. I am 
sure it is this that makes one fed so happy among them and that makes 
them and us, too, so unhappy when caught in the trammels of industrial 
intrigue. Your remarks on die passing and enduring things made me think 
of a sentence in the Ricketts life I have just finished which speaks of 
artists who 'in every age and every dime (why not climate ?) have created 
in thought or form things which endure the longest'. 

I continue to write this diary, though probably no safe means of 



sending will be found till I take it myself but there is such a lot of marvel- 
lous gossip to put down. The Fascist eye has been wiped right away by a 
nice young Greek and Mr. Perkins between them : they have collared the 
coffee trade, and armaments they hope will come. Favetti has been send- 
ing agonised billets doux to my Pseudo : Qadhi R. has been opposing all he 
can ; but the contract has gone through Prince Seif Ali who, in spite of my 
Aden dossier, is so litde pro-Italian that he refused 40,000 dollars bakhshish 
from them and took 20,000 only from a Greek for the new harbour. The 
fact is that the only way to do real propaganda is to be a genuine well- 
wisher. There are only two parties in Yemen: one pro-Italian, dependent 
entirely on bribes ; and the other pro-Yemen ; and if we can help with that 
one, we shall be all right. I hope we may have the sense to see it. A 
charming story for instance about Seif Ahmed 1 who is also, and I am told 
wrongfully, supposed to be pro-Italian. When the four Fascist guns 
arrived at Mocha, it turned out that there were fifty men and fifteen 
officers accompanying them. Seif Ahmed went down, said that two 
Italians only need disembark, and shut himself up away from protests. 

I spent yesterday p.m. sitting beside a small new-born baby no bigger 
than your hand (the boring things I have to do !) and then went through 
pleasant sunset gardens with the three ladies veiled and draped to the 
Qadhi's house, and told him the story of the tiff with Rossi. He looked 
very thoughtful ! He is a wicked, amusing old boy, but I am quite sure 
that he likes the English, while earning his living against us. 

All the army officers now want the cinema; the Imam is being 
approached. The old head of police came to call this morning almost 
lyrical about it; his five fingers were put up before his face in sign of 
admiration almost all through the visit. 

I get about nine hours sheer talking every day and hardly ever 
manage a walk at alL You will have to give me a trip for fun among 
nice friendly tribesmen, to forget all this ghastly intrigue ! 

6 March 1940 

I paid a farewell visit to the chief Queen, who is one of the nicest 
women you can possibly imagine. She took me by the hand all over the 
garden, cornfields and fruit trees fig, quince, pomegranate, plum, 
apricot and peach, with a cemented stream-bed running through and a 
little private mosque. The palace soars up from it, half brick, half stone. 
Ladies of the other harim, whose doors also open to the garden, were 
praying by the birket (well), robed in white and very like Tanagra 
1 H.H. the present Imam. 



ii4JMisl4P ii 



figures. Our party were all gaily coloured. They make their dresses 
themselves. A crowd of children is always in and out. As for the Imam, 
I don't believe I shall see him at all; nor will I see the Qadhi al Amri. 
Some people are too exalted to talk to women. 

Meanwhile I have made a social blunder by asking to call on Prince 
Abdullah's wife. He is the Minister for Education and I was told to write 
to him for permission to visit the cloth factory : after that you would not 
expect him to be also in prison ! People said in an ambiguous way 'he 
lives in the Qasr', but I couldn't know that this meant prison, especially 
as he was allowed out for the cinema ! You will see how difficult life is 
here ! Another blunder I have made is to ask to subscribe to the local 
paper. There would be no difficulty, they said, in having it free, but to ask 
to subscribe looks like spying and needs a special permission ! Poor Dr. 
Walker has to get a permit all over again for his wireless, which has been 
mended and sent back from Aden. 

7 March 1940 

Your telegram just here two days en route ! I am getting Nagi to say 
things to the Albanian postman. The film arrival is excellent news, 
though it will mean an extra fortnight at least here. You can't think how 
I shall appreciate being a mere harim again and having you to do the real 

This morning I went to visit the cloth factory. There seems to me 
always something pathetic and rather heroic in these first struggles in the 
East with machinery. The poor Yemeni apprentices (at three to six 
dollars monthly without food) standing by those clattering engines and 
really turning out quite creditable stuff in appalling designs from Man- 
chester. The Yemeni head and the Egyptian teacher are coming to tea. 
They were so pleased to show it all. When they have got a spinning plant, 
they will be able to do the whole thing, from growing of the cotton to the 
finishing off of a dhaUfs [officer's] uniform by an ancient Yemeni tailor 
who held up a pair of impossible trousers and said: 'This is Europe.* 

The Italians are fuming over their lost contract. Favetti strode in on the 
Pseudo and said, *I have to thank you for this.' 

I think I have done as much damage as one could in the time, and this 
pkce is now fairly convinced that Britain is strong. The next thing is to 
convince them that we are not dangerous as neighbours, and that I hope 
will be done by Mr. Champion ! 

I don't think I could bear this for very much longer. Every day the 
Fascists send their soldier to scrounge around with my bodyguard and 

D [37] 


report my every movement : every cinema show except those in the royal 
palace has been given in houses that take secret bribes. 

cj March 1940 

The Imam, it appears, was amused by the story of my tiff and the 
Fascist claim to be the 'chief people here'. My old gossip told it to his 
wife, who told it to him and they were all laughing about it. 

What with (i) Colonel Lake, (2) me and the cinema, (3) loss of the 
coffee contract, (4) Mr. Champion, (5) the most opportune business of the 
German coal which is causing a sensation here, the Fascist nose is badly out 

A small domestic comedy is going on in the house of Qadhi al Amri 
who is too religious to have a strange woman in his house or to ask to see 
the cinema. But all his sons and harim are dying to see it and are the only 
important people not to have done so. They tried to lure me into a 
neighbouring house where they would have gone, but I discovered at the 
last moment that there was no Imam's permission and refused. I am sure 
it is wise to be very strict about this ; it also makes the cinema even more 
sought after than it would be otherwise. They are now waiting for the 
arrival of an uncle to ask the Imam. 

14 March 

All sorts of things have been happening. For one thing I paid a funeral 
call and was made to stay for the baked meats, helbe, which is flour and 
water and vinegar beaten by hand, and a very nice dish called Shufut. 
About twenty women sat, all in black, while the bereaved family brought 
copper cauldrons of sheep, soups, rice, and then coffee in a monumental 
ewer. The nieces of Seif Ahmed were there and I have made rather 
friends with that house, where all the women are delightful. I went this 
morning and photographed the little girls in a row in their best dresses, 
and was shown a Bestiary with the picture of an animal with human 
face and scorpion tail which they told me is *a sort of lion but not com- 
mon now'. The lion is a noble animal : it looks at footprints in the dust 
and never pursues a woman. Monkeys (male) on the other hand are 
horrid; you should never have them in a house ma a al banat (with the 
girls). I longed to possess the Bestiary: seventeenth century I should say. 

19 March 1940 

I hoped to be off to you tomorrow but it is no good trying to hurry 
here. Five days ago Mr. Champion was arriving in Ta'iz, due here 



yesterday, I thought I would take his car back and get the good boat from 
Hodeidah with a hairdresser on it on the 2ist. Yesterday I heard that the 
elusive man is not even in Ta'iz. I feel rather desperate, because I have a 
headache whenever I look at paper. That is why I haven't written these 
five days, not for want of news. The trouble, I hope, is due to the altitude ; 
if not, all I can see is that we shall lie side by side in hospital while Ali in 
his lovely new uniform runs the office. The point of Champion's car is 
that most of the local ones break down for anything from one to six days 
en route, and the good ones are all away meeting this rush of Ambassadors. 

The new cinema films at last arrived, rescued already opened. 
from somebody's office just in time (my own undeveloped negatives 
had akeady been subtracted from the post and spoilt). A first 
European soiree was given and our tanks came rushing at Herr 
Hensen in the audience in a lifelike way. The Italian Mission kept 
aloof, but the independent Favettis who were charming though on 
the wrong side always came and would then bribe the Qadhi to 
try and stop the next show. The Imam protected me, and in all this 
time was generous and kind sending only to ask to know before- 
hand what I had. I became fond of him although I never met him, 
merely from the way in which his people spoke of him, with voices 
of affection. On my last evening I showed all the new films to the 
Royal Family, 'with one agonizing moment when a princess (very 
small) sat on the wire and I thought the thing would burst. In the 
middle I blundered to the men's side to ask if all was well, and sud- 
denly noticed a wall of agitated princes standing up between me and 
royalty itself/ 

There were doubts and delays to the last and exasperated notes in 
my letters. 

20 March 1940 

If it had not been for chance, which I like to think of as providence, 
those films would still be in Hodeidah together with the food and toys, in 
spite of all orders from here. And why Mr. Champion should increase 
the uncertainties of Arabia by turning himself into a Myth I can't under- 
stand. It seems easy to send a telegram from Aden a week before one 
starts with the general dates of one's journey. Anyway, I plan to leave on 
Thursday and am hunting for something that looks as if it did not break 



down. I can't help feeling that when I reach Hodeidah an earthquake may 
have destroyed the shipping ! I have taken to dreaming in Arabic ! 

Dear Stewart, do take things easy meanwhile. I hope you have sent 
me news. You might send a wire to Hodeidah to say how you are I shall 
probably be stuck there a few days. 

When by the end of the month I reached our office it felt like 
home. The high towns of the plateau with their contrasts, the sun- 
and shadow-barred streets, lay behind me, and the endless parley 
where enemies lurked. I remembered the black and white houses, 
the kindness and the friendly harims and should like to see them again 
with no task to accomplish. And I had learnt my first lesson in pro- 
paganda or persuasion. Behind speech, light, deep or subtle, I had 
seen the other powers tensions perhaps of old and younger gods 
a struggle, ultimately, in this case, for life itself. Speech, our in- 
strument, had shown itself the scabbard with the sword of reality 
inside it 

War in Aden 

I received a letter from London full of kindness over the Yemen, 
though it added a rider to say that 'H.M.G. still desires Italy to be 
regarded as a friend*. 

This ostrich attitude of Government, which by April 1940 was 
constricting GeneralWavelTs defence measures in Egypt, 1 mattered 
litde to our colony, since we had nothing much anyway with which 
defence could be connected. We continued to encourage a most 
willing and steady people, with a feeling of events round any corner. 
* Sirens went, fire-engines (half an hour late) came rushing up to the 
Secretariat. What had happened was that an Arab threw a match 
from his cigarette into a barrel of Very lights that stood beside the 
telephone/ 2 

My own belief that Italy would pounce was far too long estab- 
lished to be shaken by any official optimism; and by the first of 
May, with the real heat of summer upon us, the Red Sea war was 
plainly clear to all. 

i May 1940 
Darling B. 

War is very near today and we quite inadequately ready. 

Stewart put up a piece of talk to prepare for Italy's entry. The people 
listened in silence, then walked away clapping a very rare thing for 
Arabs to do. 

Women may be evacuated. I called on Mrs. W. and found her packed. 
The harbour has filled with Norwegian ships taking refuge. Two cruisers 

1 'As the months passed Britain remained, officially, friendly with Italy, and he 
[General Wavell] found that his Government's wish to preserve this position with 
the Italians hampered his efforts to be ready against them.' (The Campaigns of Wavell, 
R. Woollcombe, p. i<5). 

2 From a letter to Jock Murray. 



are in. The five submarines have crept away. Soldiers are to wear uni- 
form: officers to remain in reach of telephones ; leave is cancelled. The 
air is soft, hot with cool ribands through it ; the lights flicker on shore, red 
on the wireless staffs ; they glow from the hills where belated caves are 
being bored to store the Aden oil. 

With the serious opening of the war I began to keep a diary. 

4 May 1940 

Miss Patel has called and asked what she is to do with her Parsee school 
in an air raid. She says the mountain refuges are too dangerous, full of 
Arabs (who would surely be distracted by air raids from any more 
everyday amusements). Miss Patel goes on to say that her ladies would 
prefer to sit quietly in their houses till they are dead. 

Stewart and I dined with the Italian Consul. He is very jittery, kissed 
me on both cheeks . . . says all look coldly upon him (possibly because he 
flew the Italian flag round the aerodrome). Our broadcast, which gave 
a premonition of war, has filled him with perturbations and he asked us 
not to damage Italian prestige ! 

This man sent the reports which landed my mother in prison, 
so that I think of him with repulsion. 

5 May 1940 

The Dutch airlines stop calling at Naples; Ala Littoria 1 takes no 
passengers. Question of evacuating children here referred to England. 
The municipal garden opposite our office is open at night, so I can sit 
beside Queen Victoria's statue in a raid. 

6 May 1940 
Bathed this a.m., so calm: tide full; tame gull trotting on the pier; 

myriads of small fish all turning round simultaneously like a regiment by 
some obscure radar signal of their own. Rest of the day is all work. 

11 May 1940 

B .B.C. says Whitsun holiday will be cancelled. Another notice this 
morning recommends to inform police if one sees parachutists descending 
in England (Switzerland says shoot at sight). Public here quite calm. I 
1 The Italian air line. 


feel constant heartache for Mama and Herbert [the old friend who shared 
our home] and wonder where they are : wherever it is is irrevocable now 
as Switzerland is closed. Italy may keep out if things go well for us 
otherwise no. 

21 May 1940 

Little heart to write the news these days, but France has counter- 
attacked, it seems as if the German advance may stick. Italian attack from 
Somaliland expected: women and children here evacuated (none of my 
friends comply). 

Improvement in English style since the war. Feeling makes it : Samuel 
Hoare's and Hore-Belisha's banality was just that they did not feel Now 
events face us with terrible visions and the cliches die: a most moving 
speech on the B.B.C. on what captivity is, from a Belgian. Alas. 

Tonic influence too of uncomplicated people trained in control. 
Colonel Lake on the worst day said he thought things * better than in 
1914': this subduing of immediate feelings is the triumph of Reason? 
Not the intellectual who attain it, but the disciplined mind accustomed to 
danger. Courage, I feel more and more, is something that can be taught 
a matter of practice very largely. 

25 May 1940 

"Worst news so far Amiens, Abbeville, Arras lost: Arras retaken. 
Curious exhilaration together with the gloom * and we are left or shall be 
left alone* finality about one's back to the wall. Favourite place of the 
English the kst ditch ! 

Arabs here worried over their families, and whether Lahej is safe for 
them. Good many gone to India. ' Hitler has no religion he must lose/ 
they say. Up to now he had the religion (of a sort), and he won. Passion 
transcends every other human power. Now we, too, step into that arena, 
we no longer talk of Whitsun holidays given up, of 'London just as usual', 
of "team spirit 5 we say we mean to fight and as we are saying it pas- 
sionately, we will win. 

28 May 1940 

Belgium has surrendered. The Italian ship is scuttling out of harbour 
sandbags being piled up everywhere. We are for it, and the sick fear is 
going: a clean feeling that all we have to do now is to fight while we 
can . . . There is even a sort of gaiety since the burden of choice is re- 



What will history make of it? If the Germans won their inferiority 
complex would go and perhaps with it their revolting cruelty ? They 
would respect us, for we are going to fight like hell perhaps collabora- 
tion and friendship might come out of it for another generation. The 
Empire might go, but the ideas of co-operation which the Empire has 
sown will survive I believe that even losing we should emerge as leaders, 
because we are the only people visibly fit to lead: and if the material 
benefits are taken from our leadership, its spirit will be all the stronger. 
But what lies before us now for the time being, for a long time, is the job 
of fighting. May we be tempered for it. 

I wonder if Germany will ever wake from this folly. She has lost 
already over 500,000 for what? She does not even stop to pick up her 
own wounded: her tanks just go over them after 2,000 years of Chris- 
tianity ! 

2p May 1940 
Darling B., 

I hope your decision is right : * your letter (undated) after receipt of my 
telegram has just come, and I cannot help wishing you both safe in U.S.A. 
We are ready here for anything but I wish myself a V.A.D. like twenty- 
five years ago, somewhere in France ! All night we hear the drone of 
aeroplanes, and see the searchlights moving, and the armies go marching 
in one's dreams. If there is a comfort, it is in the affection of all: every 
race here steps forward, ready to help, ready even to be buried together ! 
When it comes to it, it is shown that no one except our actual enemies 
wishes the old Empire to fail. In its trouble, it gathers more loyalties than 
one had ever imagined. 

I hope this gets to you : and then if writing is possible will you tell 

(a) About coal for next winter what arrangements have you made? 

(b) Who shares your house ? Very advisable to have someone. 

(c) What about correspondence if U.S.A. joins in ? 

(d) What about money? Jock says he will send whatever necessary 
from my account. 

Your organdie dress has come looks so pretty; it is a great pleasure. 
After a rather ominous week, there is an Italian ship in harbour, so I take 
it that all is well for a day or even two ! 
1 To stay in Italy. 



[Diary] 30 May 1940 

It seems certain that Italy will join against us. Without a reason, 
except what would inspire an apache, she attacks when she thinks all 
danger of losing is gone. No decent man, whether German, British or 
Neutral, will ever do anything but despise her. I think of the many 
friends whose hearts at this moment must be sore and ashamed. 

Stewart is back, and has taken from this office the loneliness of the kst 
ten days. 

I have been buying materials the shops are selling fast as they can, 
anxious for money rather than goods. Later, no doubt, when things are 
unattainable the problem will be reversed. 

i June 1940 

No one, even on our three worst days, has doubted the final outcome. 
My low-down pub is crammed with sailors sometimes a bit drunk and 
I must say the sight of them gives a happy confidence. 

Streams now pour off one's arms as one writes: the warm weather 
is fairly here. One works under difficulties : the little dim lights make 
many things impossible I can only just see my food by the open window, 
and have to write with shutters shut in the blackout. The Italian ships 
didn't come in at all today but waited in a nervous manner outside to pick 
up passengers and then make off. I hope one will yet come back with the 
Paris models ! 

Stewart has bought a tiny yacht We went out yesterday: all so still 
that a water beetle was going faster than we ! It was lovely to get away 
among quiet unemotional things like fish, so beautiful, browsing among 
the coral. 

I have a constant pain about the heart which would be cured if I could 
know them safe in Asolo. 

7 June, 1940 
Darling B. 

I feel so sad when I think of you, and only hope that in our garden you 
can forget the unpleasantness outside. I hope this will reach you. Every 
time an Italian ship goes one feels it is like a run at cricket, the only sort of 
cricket they pky just now: they must not be caught in the open, and we 
feel safe every night we have one of them in harbour ! 

I am reassured about you, but fear the Fascists may be as unpleasant as 
they can because they do dislike me. So do look out. 

We sail about the harbour of an afternoon. It is fun, and one forgets 



all trouble. I do nothing, but begin to learn a few of the unnecessarily 
abstruse terms. Today we are going visiting on a warship full of recent 
shot holes. 'I'm afraid they're very small ones,' the Commander said 

One of the Colonels* wives here has her son in Flanders and no news 
of course : so brave, she just keeps on doing her war work, with very tired 

We are full in the heat luckily it suits me, but I wish the secretary 
would stop being ill ! I hope to be an air-raid warden. I fear it is all going 
to take very long. 

PS. You will have heard that the dresses came ! My mouth waters for 
the Paris frock, and perhaps a ship with some friend on it may yet slip in. 

But one has little hope of pleasant news for a long while It would be a 

mistake to think that we are not on our own peculiar expensive and exas- 
perating road to victory. 

On the loth of June the expected news came and war with Italy 
began at midnight. I heard it as I was dining with Harold Ingrams 
on his terrace above the dark shore and darker headland below. But 
I was thinking of Asolo, and France and in that night of stars it all 
seemed far away, not insignificant but merged into one vast signifi- 
cance, mercifully free of hate. 

The air raids now came regularly, doing extremely little damage 
in the hard Aden soil that scarcely splintered. They mostly came by 
night, in a halo of gold shell-bursts, while the silhouetted hill-walls 
of the crater dulled the explosions. Or they would crash below our 
office windows into the harbour, where cruiser and destroyers lit 
each other in jagged flashes like a Nelson battle-scene whenever they 
loosed their guns. 

There was exodus from Aden. Even down at Ma'ala where the 
dhows He in shallow water, graceful as butterflies, leaning one-sided, 
their delicate tangle of spars like stitchings on a tapestry sun-bleached 
with age, their crews, the men of Dis and Sur who lived happily 
careless of bombs and news, had left not because of war but of the 
monsoon. Of the shopkeepers on the Crescent, some went to India, 
some merely to their branches in Crater which they seemed to think 

On the i6th of June I find written in my diary : 



At the bottom of the turmoil of our time one thing only the absence 
of truth : in all parts of human life the importance of truth is now less 
regarded: it was a love for this alone that raised Greece to the peak of 
civilization. To think of your public rather than of the truth of what you 
say is, for instance, quite common and not regarded as a crime : but it is 
a crime. It means that you flit from point to point of the circumference 
while, if you go deeper and try merely to be true, you find yourself 
eventually not only at home in your own centre, but in the universal 
centre of all human hearts. Only so by truthfulness can we reach the 
universal, and therefore a hope of concord among men. 

On the lyth of June the news reached us that France had sur- 
rendered. It came to the office in the mid-afternoon, with a flash of 
thought in the stillness of the heart that here was Pitt's day again 
and the map of Europe rolled up for twenty years. And again the 
strange feeling of elation we must rely on ourselves ! 

I hunted for Stewart to tell him but, not finding him, went out 
to try a horse belonging to the Government Guards. It was three 
years old, very Arab and all over the place with a friendly skittish- 
ness. I led it past our police, who recovered a little cheerfulness by 
talking; and then listened to our announcer who was lost and 
garbled the news. All night sad processions walked through my 
brain. However this might go, our civilization, the easy-going cul- 
ture we grew up in, was at an end. 

I was much alone, for I had no car and the distances in the black- 
out were too great for walking ; the windows, both of the office 
and my room behind it, could only be closed with shutters, and this 
was now a breathless thing to suffer in the heat So I would sit on 
my balcony looking out to the silent darkness where tawn and ships 
were hidden, and the thicker darkness of the heavy summer sky 
above it, even more detachedly silent but with a comforting punc- 
tuality of stars. I would turn on the wireless and often come upon 
the wandering German music, and listen, and wonder what it is that 
makes the language of a country speak to the heart. Patriotism of all 
things is an emotion one cannot take for granted, as it would be 
different if we happened to have been born inside some other geo- 
graphic lines. Together with colour, it seems to me to be the most 
arbitrary of all human divisions, since pure accident determines 



them both. : skin has no more relation to one's being than, say, the 
eyes or hair; and as for the frontiers in which we were born, they 
have mostly been changed a dozen times in history with all their 
implications. Yet these feelings exist : not colour, as far as I am con- 
cerned, for the likenesses of human beings strike me far more than 
their difference; but the pattern of my own country is very strong, 
hammered like metal out of forgotten strokes that have all left their 
impact, till the unified surface bears only a richness, a patina of work- 
manship, to tell the lives and centuries through which it was made. 
Yet the mystery remains why an irrelevant line drawn by men 
should limit our affections, when the same sort of world stretches 
beyond it. Perhaps it is language, more than any other shackle, that 
circumscribes our freedom in the family of men ? I would think of 
this, and listen to the German music, and think of the man I would 
have married whom they had killed, and of my mother then being 
imprisoned (though I did not know it) and my two nephews one 
to be lost in Russia and the other killed in the Resistance : all pawns 
in the human procession where there should be one heart only, one 
'army of unalterable law*. 

The raids came at night or in the dawn, and I lay on my balcony 
to watch their terrible beauty, for the old house swayed like a tree- 
top in the explosions and I had a childish idea that the balustrade 
would keep splinters off my head. Fear came and went in an un- 
reasonable way connected with noise; any sound louder than a cer- 
tain pitch gave an unpleasant feeling just below the waist; but the 
sight of the flame-shod things descending cast a spell like the beauty 
of Medusa. Very little damage was done, though the harbour 
below our windows was the enemy objective and I would always 
be surprised at Stewart's matter-of-factness, arriving without a 
remark, in the morning after a noisy night, with no apparent 
doubt as to whether his office (and I inside it) were still bound to 
be there. 

The month of June brought one event that cheered us. Our 
trawler Moonstone captured an Italian submarine, shot fair and true at 
its conning tower as it surfaced beyond Aden harbour, and wiped 
out all officers except one lieutenant at a blow. I was borrowed to 
translate the prisoners' interrogation and gathered that they had 



come up when depth-charges were dropped, hoping to shoot away 
the trawler and escape. 

'Depth-charges?* said our Naval Interrogator, seriously ruffled, 
*no one would surface for depth-charges. Ask again ! * But so it was : 
my prisoners thought it natural to get away from a depth-charge if 
possible, and the divergence remained unresolved. There were 
ninety-three of them, nearly all opposed to their war. I sent off 
letters for them which they dictated to me before the interrogations, 
and our Provost Marshal, a kindly man from Kenya, told me that 
it made them answer more willingly than any prisoners he had met 
before. He soon cherished them as if they were pets, though quarters 
were cramped owing to their unexpected numbers, and the crew of 
a Savoia had to be added. It had flown across the Red Sea by night 
without noticing, looking for Djibouti, and was much relieved to 
be rescued, far in the Hadhramaut, from the indigo-painted Arabs 
of the coast. The cause of this geographic vagueness was the fact that 
the airmen never knew their target, since sealed orders were opened 
only by squadron leaders in the air. ' Our faith in our Government/ 
they said with dignity and truth, *is blind/ 

The affairs of the sea penetrated life in Aden and I had quite a lot 
to do with them for I translated the captured papers, and there in the 
operational orders were the movements of two other submarines 
within the next few days. In little over an hour destroyers got up 
steam and streaked away to trap them both at their appointed places. 
I could now think that in my life I, too, had sent out ships in a 
modest way with far less fun than Helen. At the time, faced as we 
were with so great odds against us, we thought of little beyond the 
bare fact that we meant to save the sort of world we cared for, but 
I have often thought since how strange a twist the divergent codes 
of war and peace give to the innate reasonableness of men. Eventual 
harmony, if we ever reach it, must surely be the same all 
through. I was, for instance, asked to find out a structural Italian 
submarine detail from the only surviving officer if I could. It seemed 
not possible to put such a question to someone in captivity, but I 
thought I could try if he were trusted to me for some hours of 
freedom, and the Provost Marshal brought him on parole in the 
Admiral's car; we took a long walk along the Aden beaches, with 



the monsoon blowing heavy and damp upon us, and ended over 
the best that the Marina Hotel could do. That devotion to gadgets 
so mysteriously potent in the masculine character worked its magic 
in the course of a long detour devoted to machinery, and the detail 
whatever it was emerged, without visible prompting, in a 
natural way. The young lieutenant had, I hope, a happy evening 
and, as I had watched various torpedoed ships burning on the out- 
skirts of Aden, I had no feeling of remorse : yet it is not a thing I 
would have done for any private reason, or except in time of war. 

The only other event of the summer that immediately touched us 
was the defence and loss of British Somaliland in August. Troops 
came, disembarking and re-embarking all day long; the deserted 
Crescent looked as if waves of khaki were submerging it : they went 
and after a short time of anxiety were back. 

'All in the dark on the terrace with searchlights, and sound of 
breaking glass below/ we gave a party for the two commanders, 
who came late looking desperately tired, 'the first to lose a bit of the 
Empire/ said General Godwin Austen miserably, not mentioning 
impossible odds. They left, and the Royal Sovereign left, a mighty 
hill of guns and towers ; and we relapsed into the uneasy ineffectual 
bombing at dawn, while Carlisle and Kandahar remained to look 
after us, with friends on board to take us out of an evening, as we 
settled from being a centre to a suburb of the war. 

In July I went for a few weeks to Cairo for liaison consultations, 
with the problem of departure from Aden on my mind. 



The Red Sea 

We were the first Red Sea convoy after Italy's declaration of war, 
and the Carlisle, under Captain Langley, led us out. The foam 
washed her sides, a streak of paler water widened behind her, and 
her turrets were the colour of the sea. Kandahar slipped as if un- 
leashed across our bows, and the horizon enclosed us all in a ha2y 
circle of sunshine. "We were carrying 70,000 tons of oil, and the 
cargo on my ship a B.I. liner converted was ammunition. 

Perim, long dismantled, had been bombed that day, and cruisers 
and destroyers Leander, Kingston, Kandahar aligned themselves 
beyond it to let us pass protected through the straits. The last day- 
light caught the grey hulls and the White Ensigns, the night fell with 
southern speed, and shafts from the lighthouse lit the black buffalo 
silhouette ^Carlisle leading, wickedly showing a tiny careless gleam. 
A match, they told me, will shine for three miles at sea. Safe through 
the straits, safe from the air in friendly darkness, we sped along the 
unlit Italian shore. 

The Red Sea was as hot as it can be in July. The men, many 
bearded and as near naked as possible, lay through the worst hours in 
any patch of thin transparent shade; and I the only female on board 
and officially non-existent at that felt the absence of clothes must 
be more agreeable to them than the presence of women, and did the 
best I could for myself in the suffocation of my cabin below. 

'Most of my life is in the Man's world,' I find written in a rather 
morose note of my diary at this time. * Women are apt to think of 
it as the real one, but it is not so to me filled with jealousies and now 
bloodshed. If women live more in the spirit, theirs is the real world 
but I don't know that they do.' The closing sentiment is more like 
me than the rest, for I was brought up to the man's world and have 
always liked it through its ups and downs. But a rift at this time 


with Stewart and Harold Ingrams over my departure was making 
me unhappy. In the dearth of people who could talk Arabic, it was 
unreasonable to keep two of us in a post like Aden, now with- 
drawing out of the actual zone of war; Stewart, a very brilliant 
person, was perfectly able to deal alone with these beloved coasts; 
and ever since the end of Somaliland I had been feeling that it was 
wrong of me to stay. It was not conceit to know that one was 
needed; for very few people, men or women, were available with 
a knowledge of the language at that time; and though any number 
knew more about one or the other among the Arab countries, there 
were not many who had visited them all (except the very east and 
centre) so generally as I had. These reasons made Cairo remind me 
that I had been assigned to them in the first place, while Rushbrook 
in London agreed with them and left the choice to me; when I 
returned in a few weeks' time to Aden and the actual decision had 
to be maintained, I was hurt by what seemed to me a masculine 
obtuseness in two friends who appeared to think that mere caprice 
was ruling a change which I made with so great reluctance. 

Cairo in that straitened summer was not the place of hope and 
glitter that it became within the next few months. General Wavell 
was preparing to face the desert against tremendous odds, 1 and 
80,000 Italians, nearly all tied to Fascism by their purses if not by 

1 'General Wavell at that time had a total of 36,000 men in Egypt and just tinder 
28,000 in Palestine. In the Sudan and Kenya, along nearly two thousand miles of 
frontier with Italian East Africa, he had 17,500; and another 3,300 in Aden and 
Cyprus. He therefore had under his command some 86,000 men, of which no single 
formation or unit was equipped up to war establishment, at the end of a thirteen- 
thousand-mile supply route to Egypt round the Cape. On one side of him were 
Italian forces totalling some quarter of a million men under Marshal Graziani in 
Libya, and on the other side an army of nearly 300,000, including native units, in 
Italian East Africa under the Duke of Aosta. The R.A.F. in the Middle East in June 
1940 had some 360 first line aircraft, with a bleak prospect as regards immediate re- 
placements and reinforcements; the Italians had rather over 300 aircraft in Libya 
and the Dodecanese, their home strength in Italy on call, and about 325 in Italian 
East Africa. The quality of Italian aircraft at this moment was much as ours, although 
the same was not to be said for many of their pilots.' (From The Campaigns of 
Wavell, R. Woollcombe, pp. 17-18). 



their hearts, were loose in the capital and even more so in Alexandria. 
Their Party chief had transformed himself into a Swiss diplomat for 
the duration and was therefore unassailable; he held the schools, 
hospitals, charities, workmen's clubs, etc., open to Fascists only, and 
these walked about with an exuberant confidence in streets dimmed 
with blue lights against their bombers, and bought up all stocks of 
green, red and white material suitable for the making of flags to 
greet their advancing troops. A small, devoted but disunited 
band of anti-Fascist Italians struggled against them, under the 
exasperated guidance of Colonel Thornhill 1 and Christopher 
Sykes. The Colonel, a most dogged and lovable man, was thrown 
into that world like a Christian to the Eons convinced like so many 
colonels that he was an author by immaculate conception. In an 
office seething with Latin feelings he sat, worn away like a sea rock, 
and busied himself with the creating of a paper which was to convert 
Italian prisoners when we got them. The prisoners in a short while 
appeared; but few people could be spared to look after them, and 
their camp commandants preferred to have them run by their own 
Fascists on lines that gave no trouble, although this entailed the 
beating-up of anyone who favoured us, and the boycotting of most 
of the colonel's efforts. This was still in the future. In the summer 
of 1940 the only suggestion about prisoners that I can remember is 
that they should be marched through the streets of Cairo instead of 
slinking round it, to show the Egyptian public that so rare a species 
really did exist. 

Of the fifteen million Egyptians, most thought we would lose the 
war. The gap before we had any trump card in the way of a military 
success was a very long one, and the atmosphere remained friendly 
chiefly, I believe, because of a personal trust and liking for individual 
Englishmen in the Egyptian service of the past. People like Russell 
Pasha, Walter Smart, Reginald Davies, John Hamilton and many 
others are still remembered, and twenty years ago their influence 
carried over the sticky summer and all Mussolini's intrigue. Yet, 

1 Colonel C. M. Thornhill, C.M.G., D.S.O., a lifelong friend of Lord Wavell was 
sent to Cairo in 1940 to work for S.OJEL with Captain Christopher Sykes as his 
personal assistant. His branch, G.S.I.K., was intended to stimulate anti-Fascist 
activity in Egypt. 



with many exceptions, sentiment was unfavourable as one reached 
the richer society. * We are getting ready here/ I wrote to a friend 
in the autumn of 1940, * without a united country behind us. If we 
took to leaning against anything it would turn out to be a fifth 
column no doubt.' 

I was flown back to settle my affairs in Aden, in a long-nosed 
Blenheim bomber where one sat transparent, watching the world 
spinning below one's feet five hours to touch at Port Sudan among 
the meagre cluster of our fighters, who had nothing but the black- 
out to rely upon against the Fascist Savoias when they came up from 
the south; four more across an opaque sea cut into solid creases, as 
if it were the wrinkled granite of the Alps. Far below we noticed 
four hurrying destroyers, but could not dip to see what they were 
since I had been taken on instead of the usual load of bombs. It was 
a sad return, for Stewart and Harold were still vexed ; the office had 
changed, and the sparrows I had tamed there cutting snippets of 
string off the publicity parcels to help them with their nests had 
fled. Even Said's canary had been removed, and I missed his tweet- 
ing conversation as I went in and out. The wind swept, shaking and 
rattling in a hard, bright way and cutting one's nerves : and noises 
seemed louder than ever, though the bombing had stopped. Before 
my time came for departure, peace was restored; Stewart took me 
out to the smallest of Anton Besse's steamers, to join the second Red 
Sea convoy on its way; Harold, who had been torn between the 
official and the friendly, came down handsomely on the kinder side. 
* You're a great dear,' he wrote to me in Cairo : 'and I hope all goes 
as you wish.' All this made a pang at leaving, and I have a warmth 
at my heart whenever I think of Aden, its gaunt pinnacles and the 
brightness of its solitary bays ; the friendships and die people I knew 
there share its same quality in my mind, set in remoteness, indepen- 
dent of time. I was never again to feel such safety, of everyone 
united about one against a common danger, until I came home to 
England in the last year of the war. 

I left on the 4th of September with fifty-five Sikhs on board : they 



sat cross-legged with a small harmonium, playing their Indian tunes, 
smoothing their long black beards round their chins under nets. 
Steaming in mist and sunset, we picked up our convoy off the 
southern coast, and made for Perim through a phosphorescent sea. 
It was moonlight strewn with diamonds in our wake. Next morn- 
ing, opposite Massawa, the Fascists attacked out of the sun; we were 
thirty-two vessels in sight, scattering like poultry our destroyers, 
led by the cruiser Leander, watchful round us. The bombs spouted 
higher than her fuimel. *The rattle of the ships' guns is almost con- 
tinuous ; Leander, firing, one sparkle of gold flame comscante, very 
fine indeed. Sea is dark blue a northerly breeze/ 

At Port Sudan, John Marriott 1 was busy with the southern war, 
and took me with two of his colonels to Suakin. While they looked 
at wells I wandered among the coral-built houses of dead merchants, 
bleached with white-painted woodwork and roughened by the near- 
ness of the sea. Among the stuccoed alcoves through ruined door- 
ways, I saw a Venetian chandelier. Pigeons nested on the terrace of 
Kitchener's rest-house, and sails of the nautiluses came skimming up 
the estuary where an old dhow lay stranded. A number of forts 
built by Kitchener stand round the landward side. 

Here I left the never-revisited Red Sea world and travelled to the 
Nile. In the month of September an air like fire moved over the 
polished water. Winds as from a furnace swept the banks, with cool 
threads that came from who knows where caught now and then 
between them. The desert landscape was gritty rock and barren 
water ; and Abu Simbel, as the stiff-eyed statues greeted the morning 
sun, impressive but unlovable in grandeur, looked like an incarnation 
of their inexorable land. 

At the end of the second day we anchored near the temple of 
Phylae, green with lake-weeds but unharmed from its yearly immer- 
sion, risen like Ondine. In the desert calm and the evening light, the 
Luxor Express sat at the end of its shining rails with an air of leisure 
while the Worcesters were de-training and, gradually cooling, 
carried us to Cairo through the night. 

1 Mat'or-General Sk John Marriott, K.C.V.O., C.B., D.S.O. 

[55] - 



Cairo was the centre of our world during the first three years of 
war, the stage on which all glances south of the Alps were focused. 
To see it even in 1943, when the tide of Alamein had receded, or 
more so today when it has returned to be one of the uneasy national 
provincialisms of the East, is to miss all that made it unforgettable 
to those who lived in it or near it during the three great years. It 
was the goal of the pincer movement of the Axis, the artery of our oil 
and our communications, the keystone of our Middle Eastern arch. 
It had returned to the days of the Ptolemys when Egypt was the 
gate to Parthia and India and all the spice trade. You would hear 
every European language (except German) in its streets. In the war- 
time epilepsy, people travelling from everywhere to anywhere 
would have to pass through Cairo : they would come from Scan- 
dinavia or Chungking, and salute you unexpectedly on the terrace 
of Shepheard's or the Continental. To describe, or even to think of 
it now is as difficult as to evoke the magic of dead prima donnas, 
those moments Nijinsky poised in air or Pavlova among her white 
feathers subsiding which may have been artificial but are remem- 
bered more living than anything alive, and yet they cannot be 
conveyed. Nor will any peace prosperity restore the incantation, 
for like diamonds on velvet it was set in danger in the orbit 
of advancing armies, the drama of existence or death. Exhausted 
as all were at the end, the threat was an enhancement, and no one 
can forget the gaiety and the glitter of Cairo while the desert war 
went on. 

It changed a great deal during the time I knew it from September 
to April 1940-41 and then to and fro at intervals during the next 
two years yet it always presented, like the two-way-facing Janus, 
aspects of surprising contrast the unobtrusive hard work and 
private anxiety, and the confidence which the Army, the Egyptians, 
and the outside world were made to see. It was quiet at first the 
G.H.Q. typewriters clicked from private flats (liable to be over- 
heard by the houses around) and dinner parties at the Embassy were 
easy among English or Egyptians who came to know each other 
well. Cawasses in gold and scarlet bowed one into pleasant informal 



evenings of talk with the Lampsons, 1 Miles robust and Jacqueline 
light as a fairy. The Embassy gardens at that time still stretched to 
the Nile, and one rested under a light rug after dinner, on chaise- 
longues in the soft night, where the lisp of the great river's journey 
joined the conversation. 

Sometimes it would be Mena House, round a swimming-pool in 
the open with lights dimmed so that men late from their offices 
would peer among bare jewelled shoulders and mess uniforms that 
still existed 2 to find their party at the little tables. These dimmed 
blue lights bewitched Cairo into the Pelleas and Melisande remote- 
ness that seemed to belong to the precarious time. 

The Lampsons were very good to me, and, now and then when 
I was free, asked me for a night to a cottage taken over from the 
Fayyum archaeologists, where one could wake in desert air and ride, 
under the eyes of a police guard on a camel poised on every height. 

Less official company had the desert to itself. I soon acquired 
an assistant and friend, 8 and she and I and three airmen would get 
away on donkeys now and then on a Sunday. A fine of ten piastres 
punished anyone who mentioned the war, though the R.A.R com- 
manders could not help casting up their eyes eloquently enough to 
some aeroplane sailing home above us, to see which of our scanty 
numbers it might be. 

The Egyptian Court was lukewarm during that autumn when 
to most Arabs our chances seemed hopeless. Yet there were many 
faithful friends. Jaunty in spite of his age, Prince Muhammad Ali, 
the heir, was in and out at Memo Marriott's 4 tea-table, sitting on 
the edge of a chair, his tarbush on one side and an emerald the size 
of a sparrow's egg on his little finger. The Emir Abdullah would 
come from what was still Transjordan, plump, draped in white and 
gold, with the Hashemite look of Ali and Feisal appearing in his 

1 Sir Miles Lampson (now Lord Killearn), British Ambassador to Egypt and High 
Commissioner for the Sudan 1936-46, and his wife. 

* Given up when the Dominion troops arrived with only the more austere luggage 
of war. The regiments of 1940 had been stationed for a long while previously in the 
Middle East. 

8 The Hon. Mrs. (Pamela) Hore-Ruthven. 

* Wife of Major-General Sir John Marriott. 



face with age, ready to spot a winner on the racecourse ; and his 
son, Naif, with him, curly-haired and seventeen, in search of a bride. 

People came from overseas, by detours to skirt the citadel of 
Europe. Anthony Eden was there, among Pashas congregated in 
tarbush clusters on divans under chandeliers. He was popular then 
and Turks and Arabs liked him happy, charming, and lucky to have 
been born with great events around him, ' for he does not seem quite 
strong enough to make them for himself.' I have wondered whether 
those days in Cairo may not have added their witchcraft to paint a 
picture of the importance of Egypt which showed itself fallacious 
even during the progress of the war. The Canal was out of action 
for days with no perceptibly fatal results. 

In. 1941, the desert victories held the early spring. Then came the 
Greek defeat and the Libyan pendulum against us ; between March 
and June General Wavell had five fronts on his hands. While this 
went on, Cairo became more anxious, more cosmopolitan, more 
brilliant than before, with the flight from Greece and the added 
impact of Europe; royalties and diplomats, officers, commandos, and 
agents showed like bits of glass in a kaleidoscope, to change and dis- 
solve. General Wavell left as C.-in-C. for India, Sir Arthur Long- 
more, our Air C.-in-C. went to London and new actors stepped 
upon our stage. Pat Hore-Ruthven (my Pam's husband) and the 
Long Range Desert Group to which he belonged continued in and 
out with their far stories. The Free French appeared and De Gaulle 
passed through, 'rough and unfinished like a Rodin, with carefully 
done bits here and there, such as his eyes and brow which are very 

sad we talked about the Druses and not war (for one can't help 

feeling that one might get on quicker without the Free French in 
Syria).' This was a few months before the Syrian campaign, when 
the full implication of the French defection appeared. When that 
was over, Oliver Lyttelton was our Minister of State, Air Marshal 
Tedder was in command of the Air Force and General Auchinleck, 
our new C.-in-C., was on his way. 'He looks much younger than 
Wavell,' I wrote, *with a Scotch face like a rough untidy bit of 
rock, and a great directness. He misses the greatness which General 
Wavell carries about with him, but you feel that here is a soldier 
who would remain a soldier in any circumstance, and a man who 



thinks with his own brain and not with formulas.* A few months 
later the great tank battles came to accentuate his personal ability 
during the worst crisis of the Egyptian war. 

The loss of Wavell was almost individual to many who scarce 
knew him, for he had this quality of greatness. Stories were current 
about him in Cairo. His engine conked out in the desert, and he 
sat reading Browning, waiting to settle for the night, when head- 
lights appeared. JefFery Amherst 1 was with him and advised him 
to walk into the darkness, till the lights turned out British after all. 
A general could easily be lost in the desert war. 

Before I knew him well, and while I was still involved with 
Italians, a raid on the hinterland of Genoa in the country of Mass&a's 
campaigns seemed to me possible, to encourage the anti-Fascists 
who were numerous in that region. I felt this so strongly that I 
penetrated the barbed wires of the new grey building into which 
G.H.Q. had expanded. I was handed by the outer guard to the 
Cypriots who stood at the doorway; escorted through lifts and cor- 
ridors ; until in the map-room the General himself stood before me* 
By this time I had realized the enormity of my position and no 
voice came from my frightened throat. General Wavell looked kind 
but was notoriously silent. After a second or two of mutual con- 
templation somehow I brought out my idea and, still without a 
word, he stepped across to the map of the Mediterranean and looked 
at it in silence. *I have no troops to spare/ he said at last, without a 
trace of impatience and as if with regret; and I retreated, still over- 
whelmed, but with the picture of him in my mind which I have 
often thought of, counting inadequate resources and looking at the 

As the war went on, he and all his family came to be among the 
dearest of my friends. In the letters to my mother, in which I tried 
to write what I thought could amuse or please her, I described a 
dinner in my flat high up on the Cairo island above the 'blind Nile' 
looking westward: 'only six, and we talked of everything but the 
war, the General twinkling with his one eye, quoting Oscar Wilde 
on Samarkand/ This friendship I count among the greatest fortunes 
of that year, or of many years. 

1 Earl Amherst, then serving with the Guards. 



In and out of the official world was the Levantine society of Cairo 
dripping gems and substantially unchanged from the days when Thais 
wore Alexandria's most expensive togas. It would gather in the 
Muhammad All Club where fatherly waiters and huge chandeliers 
preserved their Victorian solidity, into which cheerful troops broke 
now and then and asked for drinks. Having got them from the 
shocked fifth-columnist head waiter, they would ask for women, 
and the police were sent for ; as I left once I found my fat chauffeur 
with his head in his hands, rather bashed in by a South African 
annoyed with him for not being a taxi. 

Beyond these quarters, the whole of Cairo itself buzzed like a hive, 
carrying from age to age, from foreigner to foreigner, from dynasty 
to dynasty, its blind traditions and long poverties. In these crowded 
quarters I came to have many committees teachers, clerks, work- 
men or the lesser rank of government servant, living in small alleys 
up narrow stairs, hard lives not untouched by dreams. And in the 
crowded Muski I would discover Aly Khan's devotees among the 
Persian merchants, and would sometimes lure him 1 to sit sprinkled 
with rosewater in a carpeted twilight, while a poet festooned in his 
own fat chins recited beside a small splashing fountain of peacock- 
coloured tiles. 

The German invasion of Russia 2 brought a temporary easing of 
the desert war that did not last for long. 

19 November 1941 

Our people from Russia are hopeful and seem to think that their line 
may be established. One may have to evacuate here. One goes on 
putting things together which life and the Germans continue to pull 
apart. 8 

The desert battle was ever in our ears, advancing or receding, 
while the greater war moved beyond it in shadows of its own. 

1 Then serving in the Army as a colonel. 

2 22 June 1941. 

8 Letters to my mother. 



6 December 1941 

We are hanging anxiously on to the Libyan news. It is the most 
fantastic battle: till the things are almost on top of you, you can't tell if 
they are German or British. All the wives are anxious enough, as no news 
of their husbands comes through. 

23 November 1941 

The battle is at its height out in the desert; we are smashing their 
tanks we took them by surprise, a feat almost unparalleled [the range 
of our tank guns was eight hundred yards to the German fifteen hun- 

A grim litde story of our Poles : a German aircraft crashed into their 
camp. When they were asked where the airman was, they said : ' There is 
no airman.' 

10 December 1941 

For the first time in this war there have been German deserters last 
week. The Libyan news is very slow, but the people who know seem 
calm. It is fantastic to be here with that monstrous battle going on two 
hours away by air, and life just as gay as usual, cinemas full, restaurants 
crowded, evening dress [I had bought a last Molyneux from Paris], and 
people with arms in slings or bandaged heads going out to dinner- 

15 December 1941 

The U.S.A. are in after Pearl Harbour, but we are morally certain the 
French are going to let us down in North Africa. 

In January 1942 I wrote from Alexandria, where the fighting 
seemed very close : 

Nearly everyone here wears the good thick battle dress and luggage 
is coming and. going all the time. It is amusing to watch the * oppressed' 
Egyptians strolling dressed to the nines, a porter carrying their litde 
bags, while our tyrannous soldiery slog along half buried under rifles and 

I had been moved to Baghdad and when I last came back through 
Cairo, on one of my temporary visits in the summer of 1943 , 
Alamein and the danger were over. It was as if a dust had settled 
on the town. Athena's grey eyes that cheer the matadors and 



soldiers, the tang of life and death which belongs to the bull ring 
or the battle, had disappeared. 


The old-fashioned Arab chivalry had relieved us by halting the 
Palestine guerrillas when our larger embroilments started, but as the 
German pincer movement developed in the East it became ever 
more urgently necessary to keep the whole of the great peninsula 

Closely interwoven with the life in Cairo just described, which 
existed as a necessary relaxation for the armies, and also as a bridge 
with Egyptians and others who were our lifelines at that time, a 
vaster and less visible network, the ordinary arteries of warfare, 
spread their countless ramifications of which the departments of 
propaganda were one. 

... I am not very happy about the Middle East. Are you ? [Sir Kinahan 
Cornwallis wrote in the summer of 1940] . . . If it were only the Italians it 
would be all right, but it won't be and we must expect a huge German 
stiffening. Even so I believe we shall pull through if we have friendly 
countries behind us ... That is what I'm nervous about and I don't 
believe we are doing enough to keep the Arabs on our side . . . they are all 
waiting for a sign about the future and they aren't getting it ... They 
have been very patient so far and, considering that most of them must 
believe we are losing the war, pretty loyal, but it won't last for ever. The 
Jews seem to me quite mad not to come to some arrangement with them, 
for if we lost they would be annihilated and when we win they can hardly 
expect us to fight on their behalf. It is very unfortunate how much in- 
fluence they have over people who don't know the Middle East. I suppose 
it will all work out in the end, but we do seem to be handicapping our- 
selves unnecessarily. 

These views have now become a commonplace merely because, 
immediately before 1940 and after, they were shared by practically 
everyone who had to do anything intimately connected with Arab 



affaks. Among thek many other consequences they had brought me 
to Cako under Reginald Davies in the Embassy Publicity Office, to 
work out a plan already sketched in Aden when the Yemen journey 
left me so deeply conscious of the danger and the power of the 
human word. To use and build it up on sound foundations was my 
hope, and during the three following years I hammered a more or 
less coherent structure into shape. But when I began in Cako it was 
with a deep uncertainty before a task much greater than all my ex- 
perience; nor would I have succeeded without the sympathy of 
chiefs and companions kinder and more helpful than anyone has a 
right to expect so many people to be in so diversified a world. 

Few of us were available in Egypt at this time to deal with the 
persuasion of the fifteen million whom the Fascist Italian colony 
was trying to undermine. In its oral aspect, apart from the other 
varied activities of our office, two more experienced colleagues 1 dealt 
with the most tricky propaganda the Press and the Pashas while 
I was given as much of a free hand as possible with the rest. I lived 
in my flat and bought a Baby Austin with a hood like a Salvation 
Army bonnet, an ugly little thing which I hoped, 'like a dowdy 
wife, to love in time/ 

A few driving lessons let me loose on the Cako traffic, and 
an incident at Mena House soon made me get a better model : "Why 
are you savaging that innocent hotel ? " Sk Arthur Longmore asked 
as he happened to see me go back into a wall instead of forward. He 
sent his driver, who recommended a Standard Eight painted mid- 
night blue, on which I spent instalments of salary and affection, and 
drove in it from committee to committee, and to and from the office 
of the anti-Fastist Italians in between. Pamela Hore-Ruthven soon 
joined me and kind voluntary helpers moved in and out : a clerk was 
added later and before I left we had Ramsi Bey supervising a busy 
office and Lulie Abul Huda added to our staff. The work was 
largely social and took us into the general life of Cako, among all 
sorts of people who came to my flat for parties, regardless of fron- 
tiers or rank. The desert news as much of it as could be told 

1 Such as Mr. Grafitey-Smith and Mr. Williamson Napier, whose business was 
said to be 'wining and dining with the gentlemen of the Press*. Both were on the 
Embassy publicity staf5 who all touched on oral propaganda among their many 


would be brought by Brigadier Shearer, 1 dropping in for breakfast 
on a Sunday morning ; hussars would come from their camp near 
the Pyramids for the occasional luxury of a bath ; we had friends 
too many to mention though all are remembered for we were all 
working together, comforted by the greatness of the background 
and the excitement of the odds. 

I have already described the Arab aspects of this venture in East 
is West and they need not be repeated; but the principles of per- 
suasion which underlay the English aspect have never been pub- 
lished; I gave them every ounce of available thought and energy 
during the next six years ; as they were my life, and, apart from this, 
are still just as urgent today, I will make an effort even at the risk 
of dullness to explain them. 

A main obstacle was the unfortunate word prop Uganda itself. When 
first adopted by the Church of Rome it was simply used in the gospel 
sense of the spreading of a faith, until a reputation for subtlety 
whether or no deserved gave it a new and sinister twist of deceit. 
Two opposite ideas, the truth and the hiding of the truth, thus be- 
came sheathed in one term, and have been shuffled promiscuously 
inside it ever since. I soon decided to leave the unhappy word in the 
climate of its acquired darkness, and to use persuasion (for want of a 
better) to express the spreading of ideas that are genuinely believed. 
A missionary told me in the middle of the war that she could not 
take sides because of her religion (the Archangels were less particu- 
lar, though the occasion had been less ambiguous no doubt) ; her 
confusion was, however, I believe, chiefly brought about by 
language; if the good word gospel had been used instead of pro- 
paganda, her mind would have been clearer, and if some such 
definition had been generally connected with what our Ministry 
was saying, we should have realized that it was not only desir- 
able but also honest to distribute our persuasion as truly as we 
could. There would have been less reliance on statistics of things 
like pig-iron to make the nations of the world believe that our cause 
was just. What we were dealing with was the originating and 
spreading of ideas, whose dynamic force, whose almost unlimited 
consequences, we are so strangely unaware of. In physical disease, 


international medicine and co-operation promptly intervene; politi- 
cal laws are combated in a lukewarm way merely because most 
people and Anglo-Saxons in particular are unwilling to admit 
that thoughts can matter ; and as these clothe themselves in language, 
it follows that the importance of words is underestimated too. 
While originality can be left to a natural variety in nature, truth- 
fulness (one's own attainment of it at all events) is a matter of constant 
renewal and the only lasting foundation for style. Clear thinking 
must show behind it. Perhaps nothing but a sacramental attitude 
a feeling for the sanctity of utterance in general will nerve one for 
the labour. These are vast matters : the whole of civilization is in 
their orbit; and their neglect made a war possible at a time when 
most of the world had ceased to believe in it. Seen against such livid 
consequences, the only excuse for not attempting persuasion would 
be a weakness, a want of knowledge or conviction, in ourselves. 

My visit to the Yemen brought me to some conclusions on which 
I tried two little ventures out in Aden. The basic rules both then and 
kter were : 

(1) To believe one's own sermon. 

(2) To see that it must be advantageous not only to one's own side 
but to that of the listeners also. 

(3 ) To influence indirectly, making one's friends among the people 
of the country distribute and interpret one's words. 

This last point, not quite as vital as the other two, I shall deal 
with first, because it is still related to the subtleties of language which 
we have just been considering. 

The nature of words is that none of them express a meaning 
exactly and when we speak or translate in a foreign country a far 
greater divergence is brought in than we think : for in our own lan- 
guage, being aware of the shortcomings of words, we supply a 
thousand lights and shadows to correct them. All this has to be re- 
constructed in a foreign tongue and is hardly ever obtained direct 
in a translation : the best we can do is to inspire a limited number of 
people not with our words but with the ideas behind them, and 
cause these to grow as it were all over again from the beginning in 
their own way, in whatever the climate of their transplanting may be. 

When this was done properly, two consequences followed, the 


very opposite of our usual propaganda. Since we were not trying to 
convince our enemies, but were intent on encouraging our friends, 
we avoided any repetition of the enemy's arguments (which gives 
them an advertisement free gratis and for nothing and which every 
publication I read during the war seemed to begin by doing). We 
built up our own story, on the fundamental assumption that there 
is not room for more than one idea at a time in the average head. 
What the other side says matters scarcely at all if one's own message is 
sufficiently interesting. We did, however, use the enemy catchwords 
if they suited us : these inventions, even on a false side, are the un- 
conscious tributes paid to human decency, and if you hold them you 
capture a whole series of feelings and enthusiasms with which they 
have become connected. The word freedom had been misused for 
years by German agents ; we chose it for the tide of our society, 
emphasized it on all occasions, and brought it over to our own side 
(where indeed we truly felt that it belonged). 

The other consequence of encouraging friends rather than pros- 
elytizing enemies brought us up against what I think is one of our 
chief mistakes in the East the idea that it is a waste of time to 
employ people in capacities for which they may be inadequate. 
This frequently cuts away nearly everyone we wish to make a friend 
of. The dangers of such rigidity were apparent as early as 1930 or 
seemed so to me in companies such as the old Anglo-Persian where 
the good jobs were kept to the West; even then I thought that it 
would pay commercial enterprises to duplicate their salaried posts 
even uselessly rather than remain extra-territorial in an oriental land. 
In Aden I tried to get together a body of local young men to do 
fire-fighting and such things during raids, and came up against the 
same objection that they 'would be no good'. This seemed to me 
quite secondary : the point was that we wanted them as friends, and 
to have them idle while we looked after them was not the way to 
keep them so. 

The fact that we were proselytizing only through our friends 
brought another consequence in its wake, which I soon adopted as 
the second of the three corner-stones of all persuasion: if we wanted 
them to help us, we must preach in their interest as much as in ours. It 
was most important to raise a banner which the Middle East could 



follow for its own sake, and the misuse of such words as * freedom' 
and ' democracy' in Europe was not to blind us to their potency 
among a less sophisticated crowd. The Brotherhood of Freedom 
was non-national and not particularly British, except that it stood 
to further what we were ready to fight for. It was based on the 
axiom that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Instead of 
influence or payment our members had a chance, denied at that 
time (and now) to so many, of working for what they believed. 
All confidence, all self-respect lay in that liberty. A feeling of in- 
feriority under Western culture chiefly poisons our relations with 
Eastern peoples : if we can remove it, we bring harmony and friend- 
ship. One cannot do so by giving that may help us but not them ; 
but by encouraging them to be disinterested, generous and enthu- 
siastic the real equality appears. 

The first corner-stone and the most essential was (and is) our own 
belief in what we say. If that is absent it is better to be silent, for 
nothing but failure can come of one's preaching, and it was our 
great strength, in this war that had been thrust upon us, that we 
could stand and fight undoubting with our backs against the wall. 
I saw no reason why our values of * democracy ' should not be 
adopted by every town in Asia. Never for a moment have I doubted 
the possibility of universal persuasion or hesitated to think that 
Socrates was right. Nor, in the whole of our service, did we ever 
spread a rumour we thought to be untrue. Sometimes indeed we 
had to risk a statement before we had time to authenticate it. In 
these cases I always risked. Truth may be compared to a building 
whose general symmetry does not depend on the substance of all the 
separate bricks : their quality must be good but it would be foolish 
to subject every one of them to a chemical analysis before setting it 
in amid the mortar. Since it is easier to be accurate than truthful 
there have been many cases where pedantry about single facts has 
resulted in a perversion of the whole : and in oral persuasion it must 
never be forgotten that accuracy is but the starting-point; a yard 
this way or that will be forgotten by the first repetition; but truth 
is the whole direction of those forces which our words are intended 
to set off. 

To speak what we believe ; to tell it to those who in their turn 



will tell it to their own people ; and to see that it is directed towards 
the welfare of this people these seemed to me to be the only justifi- 
able rules and the only ones effective in the end. 'It would be a pity/ 
I said, 'not to follow some such lines as these in future, and disastrous 
to allow a way of life we truly believed in to succumb for want of 
the capacity and the machinery to diffuse it. Because we dislike 
propaganda we should not refrain from persuading with all our 
weight what we do hold to be essential. "We neglected this in the 
past and paid the price: and the aim of our Brotherhood is a sincere 
attempt to differentiate and to establish the legitimate principles of 
persuasion. 9 

'Your idea is worth trying,' Iltyd Clayton had written to me. 
'Why shouldn't we have some of these societies in favour of us 
instead of against us ?' And I had experimented the actual method 
of working such a society in Aden with a small committee of 
locally influential people who continued the 'whispering campaign' 
after my departure. They sent me news from time to time, but it 
was rather static because in Aden there were very few opponents on 
whom to lavish the resources of persuasion, and it was only in Cairo 
that the Brotherhood of Freedom developed, with a system which 
my friends described to me as an imitation of Bolshevist cells. 

They had, as a matter of fact, nothing to do with the Bolshevists 
but were based on the Christian and Muslim religions : for I argued 
that no form of persuasion could improve on what before the days 
of paper-pulp or printing, before newspapers or radio had con- 
verted millions of men. The spoken word is the traditional way by 
which every great movement in the Arab world has spread, from 
ancient beginnings to the last revolt which freed it from the Turks. 
The Abbasside Empire was established by 'oral propaganda'; the 
Old Man of the Mountain, Hasan i Sabah, said in the eleventh century 
that with the help of two friends he could overthrow a kingdom and 
he did by 'oral propaganda'. Like most powerful things, the in- 
strument has a good use and a bad ; and in one way or the other one 
can watch it at work right through the history of Asia. The results 
we gained were not the fruits of chance but tallied with what we 
had expected parts of a coherent whole based, as I think, on the 
permanent character of human beings. 






Rushbrook in London was eager from the first; *I am sure you are 
on a winner if we can get the thing going' he wrote in September. 
Reginald Davies, made careful by many years' management of the 
Alexandria Municipality's finance, was doubtful of any movement 
based on disinterested Egyptians; but he arranged everything to be 
easy for me notwithstanding, and so did everyone at the Embassy, 
from the archivists to the Ambassador himself. They became con- 
verted and the Brothers blossomed with new committees in un- 
expected places, until it began to look as if we might grow too strong. 
After nearly a year Rushbrook wrote : 'It looks to me as if the Em- 
bassy are a little alarmed at the size and strength of your lusty child ! 
At any rate they are profoundly concerned that the direction of it 
should not fall into the wrong hands/ 

This reasonable fear was influenced by the most ominous of fal- 
lacies the belief that things can be kept static by inaction. Action 
and inaction are merely two facets of activity, and when in danger it 
is better to hold a sharp knife by the handle rather than so to blunt 
it that no one, friend or foe, can find it useful. The young Nation- 
alist, whom they feared, was bound to increase, whatever anyone 
might say or do ; that he has done so all over Asia under every variety 
of regime proves his predestined progress ; the utmost that any policy 
could hope for was to keep him on our side. We have now tem- 
porarily failed in most of the Arab world to do so and I will come 
later to what I think are the two chief causes of our failure; but 
during the war we succeeded, and that was our concern at that time. 

By the end of 1940 1 had about four hundred members and more 
work than I could do. The dining-room of my flat was still the 
office, and Azmi, the clerk, and Pamela were inside it, Samaha 1 and 
Lulie were busy with a weekly bulletin where the main questions 
in men's minds were to be answered, and the few English helpers 2 
who had time to spare came in and out, or looked after committees. 

Before another year was out we had spread up and down the 
Nile, and Azhar University was being converted by seventy small 

1 Mr. Somalia, a journalist in Cairo who gave us his spare time for translating. 

2 Mr. (now the Rev.) and Mrs. Michael Pumphrey, Mr. Fouracres of the Sudan 
Service, Mr. G. "W. Murray of the Desert Survey and Mr. Ronald Fay who was to 
hold the Egyptian Brothers together until the Nasserites demolished them. 

F [69] 


'democrat' committees inside it. In Alexandria, in the commercial 
quarters and among labourers in the port, ten thousand members 
stuck to us through Rommel's invasion, publishing leaflets at their 
own expense. 

Pamela wrote in the spring of '41 : * We leave tonight to see all the 
Brethren in Luxor . . . Bakir says "all but a few insects believe in a 
British victory," so we must convert the insects ... I wish you were 
coming. I hope to have an early morning ride on Lovely Sweet. Met 
lots of Government Officials and others and started a committee.' 

From Luxor where I spent two Christmases with the Lampsons 
I wrote to my mother : 

31 December 1941 

This has been no rest cure with a committee and a speech in Arabic 
every day. Miles decided yesterday to come also and see the Edfu 
temple so we went upstream by train in the special coach and found a 
red carpet waiting . . . horses with silver amulets round their necks, 
magenta saddle-cloths and high-pommelled gilt saddles and were 
driven in a cabriolet with a crowd shouting 'Long Live Democracy'. 
We cofFeed . . . saw the temple, Miles went back to his train, and then 
with shrinking splendour I attended a committee I suspect never meets 
unless there is someone to visit them. As soon as one goes in grandeur one 
sees a look of 'benefits to come 5 lighten the eyes of members non- 
existent when one is poor and obscure as usual ! Last night some were in 
turbans, some European . . . such a difference from last year, when Pam 
and I went tentatively to people who had never thought of such a gather- 
ing: now there are five committees in Luxor, and the fifth column they 
say is more or less eliminated. The schoolboys sent me off with four 
cheers, one for me, one for liberty, one for Great Britain, one for Egypt 
the order not quite protocolaire. 

Under the shadows of greater things and in spite of the illness of 
my assistants through the summer, the Brothers of Freedom flour- 
ished. They were to start in Iraq as well as in Egypt if we could 
find a head for the whole, while Ronnie Fay in Cairo and I in 
Baghdad looked after the parts. * I am the only person in the Middle 
East,' I wrote, 'who willingly suggests that someone be put above 



CAIRO 21 November 1941 
Darling B. 

Owen Tweedy, 1 sitting with his coat off in his office and his lovely 
kilims hung on his walls, promises me an assistant if I can find one. 
I have to set about quickly on the hopeless quest. One unknown woman 
is on her way out and Lulie is to be taken on permanently, both at 600 a 
year; and two more if we can get them. Sir Walter Monckton 2 says he 
wants to help all he can, and has heard from everyone, including the 
Minister of State, that we have done good work. I hand on these bouquets 
to give you pleasure, and if you knew how many reputations have been 
lost this last year and how few survive in their jobs, you would be quite 
impressed. Anyway I do the best I can, rather looking forward to a quiet 
time at the end of it all. 

Before 1942 we had not yet got our supreme man to leave in 
charge. But Sir Walter Monckton told me he had a 'sweet* letter 
from me, 'and as it was asking for 9,000 for the Brothers, I was 
delighted he thought it so.' 

By the end of the year, Christopher Scaife, recovering from a 
desert wound, had agreed to take over as soon as he was fit. He was 
brilliant and imaginative and interested from the beginning, with 
good Egyptian Arabic and experience and we were all delighted. 
Our numbers under Ronnie Fay's devoted care increased progres- 
sively, and by the 2ist of January 1942 1 could write that everything 
was ready for the next person to carry on, *In sixteen months, be- 
ginning with two young students, we have gathered over six thou- 
sand people all pledged to fight the fifth column and none of them 
paid; all except five, including Ronnie and myself, are Egyptians; 
and if we had a more numerous staff we could treble our numbers 
in a month.* 

The growth of the Arab work drew me away from Italian 
problems, 3 and in any case we had failed in the main objective the 

1 Assistant-Director of Publicity for all the Middle East. 

2 Dkector of Publicity for all the Middle East. 

8 See Memorandum on Anti-Italian Propaganda in the Middle East by C. M. Thornhill 
and F. Stark, 8 August 1940. 



converting of tlie colony in Egypt. A suggestion to kidnap the king- 
pin from Bis shelter with the Swiss was welcomed in a genial 
moment by both Lampson and Wavell, but the army, though de- 
lighted to co-operate, asked for an impossible written order; and 
our other plan to prepare a fan of anti-Fascist scouts for a hoped- 
for landing, also petered out against the lethargy of the camp- 
commanders. We succeeded with a few minor innovations such as 
the change from an Italian to an English Apostolic delegate and the 
interpolating of prisoner greetings into the Italian news; and 
Colonel Thornhill and Christopher Sykes continued to battle with 
and for their paper, in the emotional waves of their office. 

This I was now out of, but my thoughts were still in Italy, for 
news of Herbert Young and my mother's imprisonment 1 had met 
me in Egypt, and a shock is none the less severe because it is half 
expected. They were taken to the jail in Treviso where the prison 
doctor saved them from a concentration camp by refusing to remove 
them. Our friends, everyone except the sons of the regime, did all 
they could with the gentleness Italians show for personal relations 
and in human suffering, and after three weeks Marina Luling's 2 
strings pulled them out of prison into the peaceful confinement of a 
country inn at Macerata Feltria, until they returned to three rooms 
allowed them in our house. With help from every quarter a passage 
to the United States was fixed at last, but Herbert fell ill. He was 
eighty-six, my mother seventy-nine, and weeks of anxiety went by 
while she waited: until he died happily without being driven from 
the world he knew. He had given us the house we loved, and we 
could never count what we owed him the feeling of a home one 
goes back to and finds always the same. My mother was ferried 
across in the summer of 1941 to John and Lucy Beach, our friends in 

This anxiety gave me headaches that lasted through the war and 
never let me feel quite strong again till it was over, so that I was 
haunted by the fear of illness long after my mother was safe and we 
could communicate freely: 

1 See An Italian Diary by Hora Stark, published in 1945 by John Murray. 

2 Contessa Luling-Volpi, our neighbour and owner of the beautiful Palladian villa 



CAIRO 30 June 1941 
Darling B., 

It still feels like a tempting of Providence to write my daily diary to 
you the telegram was not clear, but anyway you should be on the way. 
I shall not feel safe till I get a telegram from the U.S.A. 

Of all my letters only one seems to have arrived, so you know very 
little of my surroundings. I wish you could see them. My flat is so nice 
now, after its iciness in winter : a cool north breeze blows through it from 
the lesser Nile, and barges filled with straw, or cotton, or bricks, come 
sailing by, their masts taller than the landscape of houses and palms behind 
them. The first room is the dining-room, with one of those terrazza 
floors and white-painted chairs and table and cupboards. I bought a 
Persian picture to look at during meals, all reds and gold, with a view 
that leads you away into a sort of Samarkand: and a most amusing 
silver urn which is Turkish imitation of Louis Philippe I would say, and 
stands on a little mirror on the table. The drawing-room is double and 
opens all white with brown curtains and two lovely kttims, blues and dull 
pink, which look beautiful with red roses. It has a few Japanese prints I 
found in Aden. Then there is a spare room, furniture all painted yellow, 
with a wardrobe used as my cellar, and then my bedroom, which is almost 
all windows, and furniture mauve, with curtains dark blue and magenta 
stripes and a violet bedcover. I have a Kurdish blanket given me in 
Baghdad, crimson purple and green with gold threads, so that it looks 
very rich. I wish you could see it all, and my little car which is said to be 
one of the chief menaces to the general safety of Egypt. 

My dearest Heart [my mother wrote], 

What a joy, what ineffable joy, to have a real letter again and in a 
short month and three weeks. Incredible to have a diary again, I never 
believed I should have another ! I never hoped to see you again I do 
so love your descriptions, and your flat am not very sure of purple 
very good in itself, but is it becoming to you ? And hats 2 I am so sad to 
think of two lovely evening gowns reposing in Marina's cupboards : 
a black moke very spreading flounces, and a brilliant slim one, with 
a burgundy velvet litde jacket the last Paris models to come to 

I eventually let my flat in Cairo and moved to Iraq, where I was 
made (temporary) Attach6 to our Embassy. At intervals during the 
next two years I would cross the desert with a pause in Jerusalem, 



where the MacMichaels 1 lived wise and remote from city turmoils in 
the wartime stillness of the most beautiful of Government Houses. 
It was (or seemed to the visitor) a haven at that time, between the 
eastern and western anxieties of Hitler's pincer movement; and a 
refreshment to see terraces of lavender and rosemary with Nesta 
MacMichael planmng herbaceous borders, in a deceptive landscape 
of stability that sloped between the stones. 

Little memory stands out from these desert crossings beyond a 
confused shimmer of heat and fatigue. 

*I am sure you ought not to be trusted by yourself in your little 
car/ Jock wrote after one of them. *I mean you can't always have 
a charming major to turn the wheel when you go to sleep. Anyway 
you must be very blase about majors not to keep awake in their com- 
pany . . . Whatever chance is there for a poor second lieutenant?* 
On the next crossing, before taking up my Baghdad job, I had to 
promise Owen Tweedy *to take a Man across the desert, as he says 
he can't afford accidents to his staff/ 

1 Sir Harold MacMichael, High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief for 
Palestine and High Commissioner for Trans-Jordan, 1938-44, and Lady MacMichael. 



Baghdad: The First Crisis 

The idea of spreading the Brotherhood to Iraq was mooted in the 
spring of 1941, 1 cannot now remember by whom. With the appear- 
ance of Rommel and our withdrawal on Tobruk, the desert was then 
swinging against us, and in Iraq itself the situation according to my 
diary 'was frothing like milk about to boil/ At the end of March, 
within the first few days of my arrival, I was caught unexpectedly in 
a student procession in Baghdad. With the window of my car open, 
I made an island in the main street while the lanky young figures 
and excited chanting flowed by on either side. The first Arabic 
word that came into my head was Meskin : it means poor thing, and 
I said it whenever they seemed about to stop or hit me. I must have 
repeated it fifty times or more, watching (with some anxiety) while 
a human gleam came back into their fanatic faces. Nobody hit me. 
Shortly afterwards the English Ambassador left for Afghanistan 
in a Buick and Sir Kinahan Cornwallis replaced him. Could he 
have come earlier, the April coup d'etat might perhaps have been 
avoided : as it was, with twenty years of Iraq experience as Advisor 
in their Ministry of Interior, he guided us through the rebellion 
with a wise and steady hand. He had become a friend of mine, first 
met when I reached Iraq twelve years before, and known better and 
liked even more when we shared a table at the Ministry of Informa- 
tion during the first month of the war. With the Arab Bureau 
behind him, and the election of the first King Feisal, and all the 
early problems that brought modern Iraq out of the Turkish pro- 
vince of Mesopotamia, there was little he did not know about the 
Middle East. I used to enjoy the way his pale blue eyes became 
small, with the pupils like pin-points, when he considered an idea or 
a person, listening with an air of leisure long ago acquired. He once 
told me that he did all his paper work when the day was over and 



kept his office hours for visitors and coffee; but never missed a 
Friday's 1 shooting in the years of his service. His wife and daughter, 
who had not been out with him before, also became dear friends. 

There had been years of quiet German preparation in Iraq, in the 
skilful and rather pleasant hands of Dr. Grobba the German Am- 
bassador. The historic restlessness of the country against its govern- 
ments had already shown itself in 1 93 7 in the military dictatorship of 
Bekr Sidki, ending with his murder; and now again a mixed 
minority students, politicians out of power, and chiefly the same 
discontented army elements with a German victory in prospect to 
sustain them were gathering to a head under four generals later 
known as 'The Golden Square' and Rashid Ali al Gailani 2 as a 
political leader. In the spring of 1941 a first attempt failed with the 
escape of the Emir Abdullah the Regent, and the brilliant tactics 
that landed our troops in Basra: the main revolution was then 
forced on before German help was available and was defeated by an 
extremely slender force sent across the desert to lead back the legal 
Government, to relieve our air base at Habbaniya, and to rescue 
a small Lucknow of imprisoned British in Baghdad and the 

This campaign, though small, was a turning point in the Middle 
Eastern war. If we had lost it, Hitler's pincer movement could have 
succeeded, and oil, our access to India, and our desert strategy would 
have shown in a new and very unpleasant light : so that the invest- 
ment of the Baghdad Embassy made history in its way. So far as 
I know, its details have not been published, 3 and I will therefore 
consider the jottings of my diary through the crisis and the siege as 
a minor document and give them as they come. They begin on 
March 22nd over tea in Amman, watching the Emir Abdullah 4 
wave away the Vichy attitude of the French in Syria 5 with his well- 

1 Friday, the Muslim equivalent of our Sunday in the Iraq Government offices. 

2 A rather distant connection of the Gailani family in Baghdad and not held in 
much esteem by them. 

a Except for a brief extract in East is West. 

4 Later King. 

5 General Weygand and the French Army on which the Middle Eastern defence 
was to have relied went over almost entirely to Petain after the surrender in France. 


kept hands. "Let them go," he says. " It will mean a year or eighteen 
months more, but England will be alone at the peace. . . ." 
When I reached Iraq, the first abortive plot had failed. 

[Diary] BAGHDAD j April 1941 

Crisis as usual only a bit more so. The army has got post office and 
radio station ; Government resigned, and Rashid Ali Gailani has seized it ; 
Regent disappeared, some say to the British at Habbaniya. 

Yesterday a poor little English array and one or two very solitary 
Iraqis went to meet Sir Kinahan at the airport, but only a message came, 
to say he was detained possibly with the Regent. We have a chance to 
be firm : whatever happens in future, the present lull in the Balkans would 
allow us to dish the Iraq Army first, and they know it. 

Drove by back way unchallenged to the defences of Harthiya ; nothing 
but absent-minded looks from bridge guard. Useful to remember. 

Visit the Museum director, of Syrian origin and perverseness. 'We 
will discuss politics and I will speak frankly/ he says. Tired of people 
who * speak frankly*, and wonder what would happen if one did it oneself 

The Regent was got out the day before yesterday, lying under 
cushions in the U.S.A. Minister's car with the Minister sitting in it. No 
one looked, though the bridges were guarded. RasMd Ali's men searched 
the palace from floor to ceiling and would no doubt have murdered him. 

5 April 1941 

Went to lunch with George Antonius 1 and found him with the 
Mufti, 2 a young-looking though white-haired, handsome man, wearing 
his turban like a halo, his eyes light blue and shining and a sort of radiance 
as of a just-fallen Lucifer about him. He looked at me in a friendly 
surprise . . . most courteous and very different from his compaidon, sad 
and black-haired, with venom in his glance. 

News of our crisis grows worse. Palace telephones cut. Basra 
Governor arrested. Rather feeble manifesto from Regent said to be on 
British sloop at Basra. All depends on whether Wavell can spare troops : 
the 611 of Benghazi adds no little to our troubles in a propaganda way. 
The town here is polite and quiet, but the German radio is beginning to 
invent: says we poisoned Feisal and killed GhazL Rumour that four 

1 Author of The Arab Awakening. 

2 Haj Muhammad Amin-al-Hussaini, the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem. 



doctors went to the Regent's palace with a certificate for heart failure all 
ready but he had gone ! 

7 April 1941 

Everyone is watching the crisis get worse in a fascinated way. The 
Big Four 1 seem very competent in the management of news : the Regent's 
broadcast is jammed ; Renter's fatuous message about 'perfect tranquillity* 
in Baghdad is already scattered by them in leaflet form; anxiety to con- 
tinue British friendship stressed, though the German tone of Press and 
Baghdad wireless are already more pronounced. Bazaars peaceful: it is 
still very pleasant to row up in a bellam under the eaves and overhanging 
balconies and look into river courtyards with gardens. 

H.M.S. Falmouth reached Basra full steam: Rashid Ali protests that 
no permission was asked: H.E. says he doesn't recognize the right of the 
present government to be asked. 2 

They are being marooned in the Embassy. No Iraqis have been to see 
them there. 

8 April 1941 

I expected no Iraqis at my tea party, but twenty-nine turned up, all 
very friendly. How right it was not to cancel! It would be a great mistake 
not to encourage those who are prepared to show themselves on our side. 
Furious with X's who, when asked to co-operate in this way, one and all 
refuse 'because they are annoyed with Iraq' ! 

I wrote to Sir Kinahan : 

My dear Ken, 

Abd el Qadir 3 is going to see you at twelve tomorrow. He suggests 
that they are very worried, particularly about Turkey. I said we need not 

1 The four Iraqi generals called 'The Golden Square 1 , who ran the rebellion. 

2 We were allowed by treaty to land troops in Basra, including the use of railways, 
ports, aerodromes etc,, in time of war. Sir Kinahan used this clause, and the rebel 
(Rashid Ali) government was forced to accept the first landing : the second landing, 
before the first had moved on out of Iraq, precipitated the explosion in May : the 
rebels could not afford to wait for German help while more British troops accumu- 
lated in the country. 

3 Minister for Foreign Affairs under Rashid Ali and one of the deeply respected 
Gailanis with whom Rashid Ali was connected at an inferior level. 



even fight Iraq all we need do is to murmur that we are no longer 
interested and plenty of people will fall on her on their own. 

If you get concessions acquiescence in the landing of a battalion or 
brigade, a complete volte-face of the Press, the establishment of cordial 
relations between our Mission and the Army, and such things against 
the recognition of their Government, it seems to me you gain a way out 
without loss of prestige. The landing of troops would counterbalance the 
recognition. You would drive a wedge between the Rashid All people 
and their Axis allies, and the odium of the Government's rapidly ap- 
proaching unpopularity would fall on their shoulders and not on ours. 

The not-helping of our friends I believe would only be temporary and 
Abdullah himself, if consulted, would probably agree to it. The ex- 
government has simply done nothing for itself and is not at all deeply 
rooted in any popular affection, and for a foreign power to put in a rather 
unpopular government by force is nearly always a failure. 

Forgive me for piling more paper on your devoted head, but this is the 
outcome of endless talks with moderate Iraqis and I thought you would 
not mind my condensing it for you, for what it is worth. The idea of 
using this crisis to establish our forces peacefully and wean the Axis allies 
does appeal to one ! 

(This was the line actually followed and had already been decided 
on before my letter went.) 

[Diary] 12 April 1941 

Conversation with George Antonius. He asked what were the reasons 
for our interest in the Iraqi crisis which appeared to him entirely an 
internal political problem. 

I disclaimed any knowledge but gave personal opinion that the whole 
matter would be much simpler if we could feel convinced that the present 
Government is not acting for Germany. 

G. A Admitted he had heard in Cairo that Rashid All is in German pay 

but even if this had been so in the past, it did not follow it need be in 

the future. 
I. Agreed, but remarked that something tangible would be required to 


G.A Quoted R.A/S assurance in the Majliss (Parliament). 
I. Put it to George that if R. A. were in German pay, would he not have 

said exactly the same? 
G.A* 'Then you think him in German pay?* 



I. 'I don't know him and therefore have no opinion. All I say is that 
his public statements are no proof one way or the other. Anyone 
suspected of being pro-German is ipso facto suspected of being both 
untruthful and untrustworthy since these are among the recognized 
virtues of the German policy.' 

G.A. Thought this over and asked, 'What could he do to prove his good 
intentions ?' 

I. Suggested that for one thing the revolting tone of the Press might 

G.A * You know that the Press in the East does not represent the people.* 

L 'No, but it represents the Government. If R.A. in one day could 
make all the pro-British papers anti-British, he could just as easily do 
the opposite to the anti-British papers.' 

G.A Suggested he could easily bring such a change about if that were to 
be sufficient to convince H.M.G. 

I. Said that I had no idea at all of what would convince H.M.G. and 
thought that a change in the tone of the Press by itself would most 
probably not be sufficient by any means. All I suggested was that 
the chief difficulty will be to persuade H.M.G. that R.A. is not 
acting for Germany and that anything short of conclusive proof 
would most probably be unacceptable. 

G.A 'Do you mean that England would prefer civil war in Iraq rather 
than accept R.A/s assurances? 9 

I * If R. A. is acting in German interests, I imagine that England would 
naturally prefer civil war : it is obviously better to have half Iraq 
pro-German rather than the whole of it.' 

G.A Ended by saying how gladly he would offer his services as inter- 
mediary if Sir K.C. would like to see him again. 

14 April 1941 

Libya very disquieting. Looks as if Rommel means to push on to the 
Delta with patrols, but I feel pretty sure he cannot. I write, however, to 
arrange for my flat as I would feel sorry to lose my goods if women 
should be evacuated. 

15 April 
Stefana Drower 1 goes to see the Queen 2 . Has to wait for ages while 

1 Lady Drower, D. IITT, HON. D.D., writer and lecturer, scholar of Middle Eastern 
religions, folklore and languages, particularly of the Mandaeans. 

2 Widow of King Ghazi and mother of the little King Feisal, then aged six. The 
Regent was her brother. 



the Line of Defence asks for leave. Queen is very worn life intolerable 
everything watched. Miss Borland 1 cooks and tastes all the King's food. 

16 April 1941 

S. (owner of a factory in Baghdad) complains bitterly of our want of 
propaganda he suggests there should be a common office run by a 
Britisher and Iraqi in collaboration. This might be a promising idea. He 
emphasizes, as everyone does, the mistake of past governments in keeping 
out all the younger men. 

I dined at the Embassy and had a long talk with H.E. afterwards. Very 
pleased to be at his old job but shocked at the way our touch with out- 
lying districts is lost. Says he is going to delay the recognition of the 
new Government till sure of its good intentions. 

17 April 1941 

Last night an agreement was reached accepting the landing of our 
troops in Iraq. It was expected to be published this morning but there is 
nothing in the papers. The fact is that it converts the whole business into 
a victory for us, no matter what rebel government is in, and no doubt they 
are anxious to give it aylittle publicity as possible. 

20 April 1941 

Electrical effect of our landing. The new Government tried to keep 
it dark and even denied it, so that our broadcast describing cordial recep- 
tion by local officials, etc,, came as a surprise. Most people seem pleased. 

In the lull of this excellent news I reverted to my own business, 
and wrote what still seems to me sensible today: 

17 April 1941 

I believe there is a large body of opinion here opposed to tos only 
accidentally young Nationalist opinion, which had become anti-British 
chiefly because the older generation was pro-British and kept all the 
power in its own hands. This young opinion has been caught by the 
Nazis, but a divorce should not be beyond our skill. Its strongholds are: 
Pan-Arabism and the Mufti (matters of higher policy beyond our 
propaganda) ; the Army; and the Press. 

The Army. Our Military Mission should see to it that every young 
Iraqi officer has some sort of social relation with the English here. When 
1 The King's English nurse. 



it is considered that such a labour during the last few years could almost 
certainly have prevented the present crisis, it becomes clear that a much 
closer social feeling in the Mission is necessary. There are plenty of our 
officers keen on foreign languages and customs and it should be one of 
their chief qualifications for countries of this sort. 

The Press. Every Iraqi I have spoken to is astonished at our failure to 
make the local Press useful to our cause. The fact is that it is hard for us to 
plumb the iniquity of oriental journalism, and the best suggestion was that 
it should be directed by one British and one Iraqi in collaboration. "We 
might point out that it is not enough for the Press of an allied country to 
abstain from actual vituperation of its allies. In Iraq, when it has 'acted 
right it has taken special care to act in such a manner that its endeavours 
could not possibly be productive of any consequence/ Burke said this and 
continued: 'This innoxious and ineffectual character, that seems formed 
upon a plan of apology and disculpation, falls miserably short of the mark 
of public duty . . . What is right should not only be made known but made pre- 
valent . . . When this public man omits to put himself in a situation of 
doing his duty with effect ... it frustrates the purposes of his trust almost 
as much as if he had betrayed it.' Only an Iraqi I believe can successfully 
deal with the Iraqi Press : the British should be there to stiffen, sustain, 
guide and occasionally corrupt him. 

The fundamental fact to remember is that it is only when we can induce the 
Iraqi to do our propaganda for us that our propaganda will be effective* 

The basic principles of my theories of persuasion were being 
driven in to me by experience, though the word was not yet 

A letter from Rushbrook a few days after these notes were 
written makes the gloom of the situation even clearer. 

30 April 1941 
My dear Freya, 

It was a great joy to get your letter. I congratulate you upon being in 
Baghdad while the coup d'etat was in progress. At the moment the storm 
clouds seem indeed to be gathering. I only hope that you yourself will 
suffer no personal inconvenience ... do remember that we cannot replace 
you if you are put out of action. 

I am sure the way you suggest tackling the problem of propaganda in 
Iraq is fruitful, and will if conditions allow it to be pursued yield good 

1 From a memorandum on Propaganda, 17 April 1941. 



results. We have teen desperately weak on the liaison side ; and I think 
this is perhaps not wholly the fault of the specifically publicity organiza- 
tion. But I agree that the results have been lamentable, and have spent a 
number of sleepless nights turning over in nay mind what, if anything, 
can be done this end. At last, I arrived at the conclusion that the first 
thing was to send you to the spot. Our thoughts must have been moving 
along parallel lines ; because almost at the moment your telegram came . . . 
I am still not quite clear in my mind as to why the country has gone 
sour on us in this way. The Mufti had been a constant source of trouble; 
and to him I feel inclined to attribute much of the mystery ... I earnestly 
share your wish that Sir K.C. had gone a few months earlier. I am sure 
things would not have been so bad. 

ip April 1941 
My dear Rushbrook [I had meanwhile written], 

You will see that the essentials of propaganda here depend in all their 
main points on Government action at home. There is no doubt that, 
under Hitler, the Mufti is the main immediate cause of trouble: his 
removal or pacification entails action far beyond the scope of the wretched 
propagandist and I feel I must add the usual wail to my report namely 
that the Palestine question lies at the root of all our troubles. Everyone 
who knows these lands has been saying this for years, but it will have to be 
repeated as long as we continue in the sort of morass we are here involved 

The problem of the Military Mission too requires action beyond the 
range of our propaganda powers. It rather involves a change in the policy 
behind the Mission and, as a consequence, a very considerable change in 
the grounds on which the personnel is chosen. Vyvyan Holt 1 says: what 
is the good if Government is asked to do it all 2 I, on the other hand, fed 
that one can't produce even the smallest chick without some sort of an egg 
to start with your propagandist merely acts in the nature of an incubator, 
not as a conjuror producing the non-existent from a hat ! 

For years I have been unable to see why our Government should not 
take every public opportunity to give a blessing to the Pan-Arab cry. 
What are they frightened of? The sentiment would please every Arab, 
even if the realization remained as Utopian as ever. 

However, to leave these distressing surveys. We are having very 

1 Later Sir Vyvyan Holt, K.B.E., C.M.G., M.v.o. At that time Oriental Secretary 
and Counsellor at the British Embassy, Died 1960. Referred to henceforward as 



anxious days here. I miss being on the inside of the news as in Cairo and 
wonder how things really are, and whether our Brothers of Freedom 
stood up well to the idea of a thousand tanks on the road from Mersa 

Here there was a sticky day or two, but the volcano looks like sinking 
to the usual simmering point of Iraqi politics. I am told that we are 
unpopular only with the Baghdad part of the Army: it seems a sad re- 
flection, as Baghdad is the only centre for our Mission. It is depressing to 
think what a large amount of government machinery has to be put in 
motion just to try and make us liked ! And how little it seems to succeed ! 

Forgive these wails of a Depressed Propagandist ! I am leaving for a 
week in Persia and will then hurry back to Cairo a few days after the 
end of the month. I haven't been able to get to the north at all with all 
these troubles but have sat solidly talking Iraqi politics in Arabic instead of 
looking at the lovely spring flowers from the Shammar tents. 

As the crisis seemed over, I started on April 25 for a week of 
consultation in Teheran, in an empty train going north to fetch 
Iraqi soldiers: ominous, I thought, when the bad Greek news 
was taken into account. 

The Iranian frontier was a florid palace in the wilderness, with a 
garden full of flowers and small trees, the Customs Director's office 
spotlessly kept, with French novels by his desk, and himself a 
pleasant man from Tabriz. From there we went on over hills 
clothed with faint grass, like hair on a baby's head, to Qasr Shirin, 
and then by lush sweeps under a chorus of larks, through breezes 
weighted with sweet and sticky scents of grasses thick with flowers. 
The nomads were out in their tents like flocks of black goats against 
the hillsides, and new villages were started here and there: one I 
remembered just begun, now hidden in pale poplars and blossom- 
ing trees, though the poverty of the people prevented anything else 
developing but squalor. 

At Kermenshah a great vision came suddenly of Mount Parau 
and its neighbours, their tops mist and snow above green shoulders 
a cold spring landscape of the north; and when night had fallen 
we drank tea on Kangavari's new boulevard, with lanterns on poles 
all down it. The latest civilization seemed to consist of boulevards, 
regardless of what backed them. At the foot of the Asadabad. Pass, 






a bridge was away and a band of coolies were helping lorries across 
a small but tumultuous river in the darkness. The steep bank shone 
with mud in the headlights and so did the coolies* thin wet legs : 
their skullcaps and pale turbans, their ragged light felt coats, looked 
beautiful against the background of night. 

Mist and snow at the top melting to slush as we came down, and 
buckets of rain in Hamadan. A fire was lit in my room, and food 
brought up, and in the morning the sun shone like varnish on the 
young leaves and the snows of Elvand. But what had become of 
Hamadan? a square surrounded by cupolas, symmetrical and 
hideous: the wide new spaces seas of mud; the women's pretty 
chadurs changed to drab scarves, and the men with any old bit of 
European clothing, all dingy and mostly black. 

The landscape continued grim and beautiful hills black with rain 
and white, cold bands of snow, or ponds of water. Mineral streaks 
made the lower folds rusty and red and jade like autumn Scotland. 
The mud-bastioned villages looked well with their low lines, and 
the peasants in the fields, the ragged strips of their clothes fluttering 
about them. Kazvin seemed unchanged, with brick-vaulted descents 
to the bazaars that I remembered; and as night was again falling we 
caught one glimpse of Elburz sunset-lit. Then lorries in the head- 
lights at Karaj rescued through slush and sleet from the silt, while 
a white bird, a duck, started up illuminated and perpendicular like 
a Chinese painting against the background of the dark. 

In the morning I woke to a scent of wallflowers in the Legation 
garden, where two happy bachelor ducks and a library of good 
books solaced Sir Reader Bullard's 1 harassed leisure. The shadow of 
the Greek retreat hung over us, and anxiety for Egypt, and absence 
of Iraq news. 

[Diary] 28 April 1941 

The general feeling in the country is that of a rabbit hypnotized by 
a snake we are not masters of events and things have gone beyond 
ordinary methods. None of the two thousand or more technicians of the 
Axis here are over thirty-five ! 

I had a dream and woke up saying : *Je me permets k seul luxe de ne pas 

1 Distinguished expert on Arab and Middle East affairs. Minister (later Ambas- 
sador) in Teheran 1939-46. 

G [8 5 ] 


connaitre des Allemands,' and when Mr. Churchill in his speech last night 
said he was going to make a not inapt quotation, I thought it should be 
* Say not the struggle nought availeth, etc. 1 and it was. 

There was nothing to be planned at the moment. I spent a quiet 
morning or two being painted by Gerald de Gaury, 2 wondering idly 
where that canvas might end. The Victorian Legation with its Per- 
sian mirror-work and stucco, its comfortable compromise of two 
traditions, its Oriental dignity and English country-house ease, made 
a curious contrast with our precarious tenure. 'The snows of the 
mountains behind us and their visiting clouds all combine to give a 
feeling of remoteness only broken by the News.' 

As the aeroplanes were full and there was no means of returning 
for a week, I decided to spend the two spare days in Isfahan ; but I 
left sooner, on the 3 oth of April, after waking up with, a presentiment. 
The crash in Iraq was not foreseen immediately, yet I suddenly felt 
that it was coming and that I might not reach Baghdad if I delayed. 
I renounced Isfahan and hurried by special car at my own expense 
to Kermenshah, back over the Asadabad its chrysoprase landscape 
of grass and corn almost transparent under a rainbow. Liberty, the 
loveliness of Persia, was all about me: those groups of riders, those 
herds and flocks, the town-free spaces, the limpid air. As I drove 
along, with my foreboding, uncertain of what the frontier might 
hold, I thought of all the things good and bad that I had seen in my 
short journey the larks and the honey-scented air ; the bird in the 
night ; the snow-slopes and poplars of Teheran ; a boy with a bicycle, 
on a boulder in a stream, reading ; the errand boy strolling with a 
bunch of roses; four gazelles crossing the road; the flocks of sheep 
adrift on the dasht like fat summer clouds ; black tents where the hill 
slope breaks like a wave above them; the crescent moon reflected in 
the stream-bed of a village street, with the old moon in her arm; 
three villagers round their pool where the little splash could mingle 
with their talk; fields of blue hyacinths; the shepherd's fire high 
up on Kuh Parau and the outline of Bisitun rocks under the moon. 
I thought of Persia sitting like a frog in front of the German 

1 A. H. Clough. 

2 Then Attache at the British Legation. 



python ; of the poverty of the people and the ugliness of their 
clothes; of what some people drank and some of their wives said; 
and how mixed the world, with a balance on the whole in its 

It took thirteen hours to reach Kermenshah, and I was off next 
morning, asking the kind Vaughan Russells at the Consulate to say 
to the Oil Company that I had already departed. A message for me 
had been sent there from H.E. in Baghdad, and I thought (rightly 
as it turned out) that it might try to intercept my return. There was 
no difficulty, but a great deal of rumour and many good wishes on 
the Persian side of the border ; and it was only when I reached 
EJianikin, the Iraqi frontier town, that a young lieutenant put me 
into police custody in the railway rest-house, to wait for the evening 



Baghdad: The Siege of the Embassy 

I got off so easily at Khanikin by asking for a lady's maid. This old- 
fashioned product, obviously unobtainable there, which I pointed 
out to the police officer as an indispensable adjunct to a civilized 
female prisoner, made him prefer to send me off to wherever I 
wished to go. I had taken care to have no return visa for Persia ; and 
the result was a long but polite evening with a policeman, and a 
sleeper on the night express, instead of the prison camp in which 
other people spent a month of discomfort. 

During the short five days of my absence events in Iraq had 
precipitated with unexpected speed: on the soth of April 1 our land- 
ing of the second brigade of the loth. Indian Division, before the 
first had moved on, proved to 'The Golden Square' that their game 
would be up if they waited any longer, while our forces might 
indefinitely grow. The German reinforcements were not yet avail- 
able and the batde of Crete, in which almost all German transport 
aeroplanes were lost, was only just preparing: faced with this 
dilemma, the Iraq Army moved west from Baghdad to invest Hab- 
baniya, where such aircraft as we had took the initiative and attacked 
them on the 2nd of May at five in the morning. 

At about this time, trundling along the deserty landscape in my 
sleeper, I could begin to look out into the dawn and to see the 
familiar outlines of the Baghdad plain with some relief for I had 
feared at every station through the night to be shunted away to some 
prison siding. The police came up to me in a friendly way on 
arrival, saying that I must be going to Dr. Sinderson's 2 ; if not, to 

1 See the official history, The Mediterranean and Middle East, Vol. II, Ch. IX, for a 
detailed account of the Iraq campaign. 

2 Dr. Sinderson Pasha (now Six Harry Sinderson), known to us all as 'Sinbad*, 
head of the Baghdad Medical School and physician to the Royal Household, whose 
gallant cheerfulness sustained us all. 



tlie Y.M.C. A. ; and looked grave when I said the Embassy. But they 
put me into a gharry and I drove through shuttered streets with not 
a cat in sight. A dead sort of animation of Arabic leaflets was flick- 
ering from the sky; as they were ours, I read one out to the driver, 
who asked for a double fare * because of the danger*, handed down 
my suitcase in a hurry in the narrow alley and made off while I 
squeezed into the Embassy court through a postern, where the 
cawasses crowded round to shake my hand. 

[Diary] 2 May 1941 

Leslie Pott, our Consul, called by a soldier to identify, is so dazed with 
want of sleep that he doesn't recognize me at first The Chancery is a 
bonfire, mountains of archives being burnt in the court, prodded by the 
staff with rakes; bkck cinders like crows winged with little flames fly 
into the sunlight. State of siege has been going on for three days. All ask 
how I came from the station, and furious when I say * in a gharry*. 

Dormitory upstairs ; uprooted women ; horrid look of pkces meant for 
few people and crowded. All desoktely tidy an oriental camp would be 
far less tidy but also far less desolate. 

Petrol tins of sand everywhere for bombs ; cars parked on kwn; men 
sprawling asleep round the blue-tiled fountain in the hall to be cool; 
nurses. Lucknow feeling, very disagreeable. Pathetic looks of doglike 
trust of Indians ; gloomy looks of Iraqis ; imperturbable, hot, but not un~ 
cheerful looks of British, The courier from Teheran who was to have 
brought me, had I waited, has been wired not to come. At Habbaniya 
the women and children have not been able to leave and are surrounded 
by artillery shelling the aerodrome. Iraqi planes fly overhead: ours too 
busy I suppose. We have shelled the Basra radio. 

My possessions appear to be lost to me (No, Mr. L. sent them to 

Vyvyan. Holt's office). 

3 May 1941 

News was not good when we last Bad it (at present even wireless 
confiscated, except one hidden). Mystery why the Iraq Army were 
allowed eighteen hours to go quiedy and instal themselves round Hab- 
baniya instead of being held up at Faflujah bridge. Notice of their going 
was sent ahead by the Embassy : and Pat Domvile 1 sent a wire on his own 

1 Group-Captain Patrick Domvile, O.B.E., formerly 8th Hussars and British 
Military Mission to the Iraq Army. He held R.A.F. Intelligence posts in Iraq Jordan, 
Palestine and Cairo. 



to advise holding them at Fallujah and not throw the advantage of the 
Euphrates away. We have a big V on the lawn in white sheets to tell the 
air that we are lost to news. We are trying to rig up a receiving set, but it 
makes a noise like a machine-gun and the police rather naturally object. 
Police are 'protecting' us, patrolling constantly up and down the river in 
front of the antirrhinums and our long low terrace wall, where a look-out 
or two of our own, in grey flannels, or khaki, or tweeds as the case may be, 
is lounging. 

No one has much to do today except people busy with sandbags. A 
mob came against us with war chant and drums black silhouettes and 
their banners crowded against the sunset over the eyebrow arch of the 
Khota bridge. 

I was given a mattress, pillow, and blanket, and laid it out with my 
Sulaimaniya rug on a terrace above the river and the police. The sunrise 
draws flaming swords behind the black of Baghdad's river houses and 
low domes. The sky turns green to blue; the clouds red to orange. 
The purple river a hurry of small triangular ripples rushes like the 
German armies to meet Eternity. There is a sound of bells I had never 
heard here before, though perhaps they always sound them; they seem 
friendly now, like a Christian message (Iraqi Christians are not mostly 
among our friends). I dress in the early sun. Two aeroplanes overhead: 
hear the power in their engines British bombers, black in the blue sky 
about 5,000 feet up over east Baghdad. 

Came down 7.30 to breakfast at HLE/s table : very nicely laid, no eggs. 
Electric current is cut off (no lights, bells, fans or ironing) but daily 
paper arrives and so do letters. No telephones. V.H. comes in looking 
tired, reads out the Iraqi communiques which claim twenty-nine of our 
aeroplanes. It seems certain that we must have lost a good many on the 
ground. The women and children are still nearly all in Habbaniya, 

H.E. very calm: gives the certainty of feeling deeply with no means 
of knowing how he conveys it by great honesty in his words I think. He 
has been through many a stormy sea before, Mens aequa. The General 1 
goes about with a busy eye for detail and preserves his calm by not inves- 
tigating the abstract. H.E. is tempered steel, the General simpler metal : 
but will not fail all the same. 

Men are doing guard and arranging sandbags, and happy because of the 
manual labour which helps them not to think. Indians and Iraqis are not 
so happy, this Lucknow atmosphere of rather silent and not rhetoric 
preparation for unpleasantness is getting them down. They answer little 

1 Major-General G. G. Water-house, C.B., M.C., head of the Military Mission. 



bits of conversation with pathetic eagerness. Yesterday the hungry 
cawasses were able to send out one of their number, escorted by a police- 
man to the suq to buy provisions. Today this too is stopped. It is thought 
that relations may be broken off between Iraq and Britain ! [Diplomatic 
relations continued in an oriental way while the troops fought it out at 

In our dormitory are two Polish women, one with a little boy of nine, 
a widow from Warsaw. She leans over the balustrade above me in the 
moonlight, the outline of a plump, delicate continental arm and hand 
waving as she talks of the long misery of it all. 

Our new wireless was dismantled yesterday in obedience to the rebel 
government's threats to come in and force us. 

I can't help feeling we have been idiotic in our leaflet distribution these 
days, while the issue is being fought out; we should not have sent these 
insulting leaflets till we were in sight of victory. It naturally provoked 
retaliation, the capture of our distributors, and the impossibility now of 
either distributing or going out at all. 

British outside now seem mostly to be prisoners. No news of the 
remaining oil men from Khanikin. No news of Bill Bailey, distributor of 
leaflets. [He was in prison.] 

6 p.m 

The Iraquis sent two officers to remove our wireless (did not find all 
however). They also asked us to take the flag off the top of the Embassy : 
it now flutters modestly on a black metal staff beside the front steps. We 
have no means for news to or from Habbaniya. 

4 May 

I played bridge last night distracted by the news (false) that Rutba was 
taken. Extraordinary to see how a rumour spreads: four people had 
actually heard and all efforts to suppress were vain. 

About 4 a.m. in faintest beginning of light, five of our bombers came 
over to plaster Rashid camp and machine-gun the airfield wild and 
ineffectual popping of Iraq firearms. A very beautiful sight a great 
Wellington, slowly sailing along at about 1,000 feet, up the river from 
south to north, very dark against the green sky and the sleeping houses. 
The sound of bombs dull but clear : the A. A. very sharp and crackling : 
the police launches swish up and down, police with sidaras [caps] off 
grasp their rifles firmly and shoot sitting, whenever they pass the Embassy. 
The raid ksted about three hours. I spent my time among the women of 


various nationalities soothing their nerves. Our room has Iraqi Armenians 
and Jewesses and an Indian family above; a Greek with two or three 
Armenians and a Jugoslav prima donna below. We are nineteen females 

We now make a daily bulletin of news from the B.B.C. and I help to 
take it down in a nice untidy little office with translators all devoted to the 
British, cause, touching and friendly. Ernest Main is there, for whom I 
worked on The Baghdad Times so long ago; Pat Domvile, diffident, 
imaginative, unselfish; H.G. like a large bearded embodiment of la 
mouche du cache \ Seton Lloyd, full of shy and quiet enthusiasms with a 
mouth that smiles up at one corner and down at the other and a long thin 
figure looking as if it were 'stylized' : good colleagues. 

The most constant sound is the cooing of doves, like pacifists ; as soon 
as the cracking of rifles stops they are at it again. 

Ripple of agitation: the Superintendent of Police. All it was, was a 
friendly escort to take our lorry to buy food. Turns out they can't because 
all shops are shut, terrified by our bombing. The police at the gate say 
they would like to please us in any way, if a bit of bakhshish is available. 

I made friends yesterday with those in the launch moored outside our 
wall : promised them tea for today. 

One of our dormitory ladies has a bad character, not supposed to be 
safe with property. A horrid feeling. She has quite a human smile. 
Difficult anyway to know a good woman by sight. 

5 May 

Yesterday passed uneventful. Our gardens look like those of a country- 
house when opened to the public. Domestic trouble in our publicity 
section. We have two daily conferences dedicated to sustaining the public 
morale under H.G., our Ras> whose manners are bad. The fact is that a 
Passage to India element is brought out by circumstances, and it is too easy 
to assume that ordinary social manners cease in a crisis : should be most 
important just now to stick to them. 

Pleasant rest on my rug in the garden, coloured like the lupins behind 
it. In the pergola, dark and shaded, the two who watch our long and 
rather vulnerable wall walk up and down. The police-boat outside has 
added one of the Futua, the Youth Movement, to its strength. The police 
lie stretched there asleep on the thwarts: they have a square of shade on 
the water, but shade too is getting rapidly hotter. Soon the siesta hour 
will be safe for anyone to go in and out ! A man with a bundle offish on 
a pole has already been seen in camp. 


Yesterday having been asked what, if anything, was causing gloom 
among the Iraqis inside our compound, I said it was the absence of their 
own bread. 'That,' said our Ra$, 'is a matter for Colonel Smith's de- 
partment/ Seton Lloyd and I left it at that but wandered off and looked 
into the matter among the stablemen, who were cooking over a few 
planks on an iron surge. A woman is what they really need but an earthern 
tannura [oven] would be next best. Got over the difficulty of its belonging 
to Colonel Smith's department by giving a present of 3/- and leaving it to 
them to get the tannura, which is seen this morning walking in on some- 
one's shoulder. V.H. enraged (a) that I can get one for 3/-; (b) that it 
comes walking in with no trouble at all. No idea of how it is done my- 

Such a very friendly reception at the cooking place: blessings poured 
on one. The Muslims in one corner squatting : in the other, at a spotless 
table, the Hindu priest with a long beard is pasting flour and prayers into 
a yellow dough. We have arranged for guests to go to and fro from the 
Indian mess and our canteen: the Indians have two ping-pong tables to 
eat on under palm trees near the stables. The six horses are rather bored. 
Take them dates every day. Syces are Kurds: gardeners are Persians: 
caw asses Kurd or Arab. Two-thirds of them have remained. The rest left 
and were, we are told, taken to prison. 

Today five airmen from Habbaniya captured by Iraqis are being 
brought in to us we hope. 

Monstrous leaflet dropped by British Government to say they will 
bomb Government buildings in Iraq, so condemn all here to destruction 
and of course it can't be carried out. Why spread empty threats ? H.E. 
telegraphs urgently to stop violent leaflets written by ourselves. 

Mr. Edmonds 1 is now sitting here in V.H/s office: quiet, except that 
the shuttered windows are being barbed with wire. He is writing sugges- 
tions in case we reach an official state of war. If the British have to remain 
here, should they try to go to their houses or be kept in the Embassy? 
V.H. meanwhile is called off to most friendly talk on the telephone with 
the Iraqi Minister of Defence. 

A pleasant walk with Adrian Bishop 2 among hibiscus, buddleia and 
pomegranate so lovely looking from shade at the flowers and the brilliant 
green like stained glass that lets the sunlight through. 

1 Mr. C. J. Edmonds, C.M.G., C.B.E., then Advisor in Iraq to the Ministry of Interior. 

2 Assistant Public Relations Officer 1941-42; killed in September, 1942. The most 
brilliant personality of his year at Cambridge, hfe had become an Anglican monk 
shortly before the war. 



6 May 1941 

V.H. depressed and tired struggling with question of women and 
children in Habbaniya. The Foreign Minister telephoned to say that they 
are ready to let them out: a reply was drafted that this was a matter for 
A.O.C. Habbaniya and the Commanding Iraqi Officer which more or 
less dishes the suggestion, for the A.O.C. will never trust the women (and 
there are over a thousand if Iraqi, Assyrian, etc., are counted) to be entirely 
in Iraqi hands and on the other hand he can't spare sufficient escort to 
protect them. I am personally convinced that the less escort they take the 
better: the Iraqis would not do anything to them their feeling in this 
matter is very strong. 

Food is getting lower : we have strict rationing, but quite sufficient 
though one could easily eat every meal twice over. Breakfast : cocoa, one 
sardine on bread, one bread-slice and jam. Lunch: rice, corned beef, half 
tomato, two small bread bill ; two prunes and half slice pineapple. Even- 
ing : fish, curry and stewed fruit : very little of each. 

I enjoy watching the crowd of sparrows splashing about in the garden 
where the hose is watering the grass. One of them has swallowed so fat a 
worm, he can't shut his mouth after it goes hopping round with it open 
and a surprised expression. I stroll to talk to the four police in their 
guard boat. They apologize for being on the other side : one lays his hand 
on his heart and says, 'We would like you (British) to be happy.' Notice 
that the Shiah boatmen are much more friendly. A boy in a bettarn comes 
close up and says, ' Would you like fish for a dinar ? ' ' Yes/ 1 say, ' bring all 
the fish you like but not for a dinar. 9 

Have got soap for our Iraqis and Persians. Their food is still a problem. 
They told Seton Lloyd yesterday that they had not told me they were 
hungry when I asked because : 'You are all hungry too and it would have 
been a 'aib to mention it.' This is manners and very touching. They say 
one of them knows a policeman and can get food so S. L. has given them 
.5 to buy enough for two days ; hope it may work. 

We now divide into two monitoring shifts and my afternoon one is 4 
p.m. to 10 p.m. A surprising offer comes through from H.M.G. of friend- 
ship if Rashid Ali withdraws : it looks as if it meant friendship with him, 
but must be badly put. My transcription is suspected, the thing being so 
deplorable so that I begin even to doubt myself: but heard it repeated 
over the Palestine news. The mischievous effects begin to be apparent this 
morning listening to Baghdad radio which declares us to be suing for 

All rather languid at our committee because we are hungry. Our Ras 



says we shall make Rashid Ali and his friends ' tidy up the mess with their 
women looking on do I approve?* I don't. Nothing more revolting 
than that sort of attitude, apart from its futility. 

Sinbad gives me a piece of chocolate. Salama comes with a present of 
two apples. Rather grim to be so appreciative when this is only the 

The six people expected from Habbaniya have not come in. No R. A.F. 
in sight. B.B.C. report Habbaniya garrison almost intact. A few Iraqi 
aeroplanes floating about. 

7 May 1941 

Try to deal with the cawass problem. They have had nothing to eat all 
day. The truth of this obscure subject almost impossible to get at, the 
cawasses being too polite to say they haven't eaten, except to me in private : 
it finally appears that they were given two days' rations and ate it all in 
one. The money we gave the day before was handed to a contractor who 
brought it honestly back saying he could get nothing. Have now agreed 
to be the liaison for the cawasses with Mr. Bourne and Colonel Smith, who 
do food. Would like to know whether communication with the outside 
world is to be encouraged or not; this morning fifty rounds of bread got 
across the wall and were being sold for lofils each. 

As we were at supper in the dim moonlight round the canteen, 
bombers came over again: explosions from Washash and sound of 
machine-guns. All hurried back and the women sat in the big drawing- 
room. No one panicky now. There was another air raid just as I went to 
lunch with the Indians, and I sat a long time in their shelter (very comfor- 
table and cool). A Lahore doctor there with his wife and Sarah., seven 
months old: very good-tempered people they all are. The Hindu priest 
with long beard who was making bread the other day comes and eats with 
us. He used to be a compositor on The Baghdad Times. He says he loves 
this opportunity to cook and work for his people. His religion enjoins that 
every opportunity for service be taken. A pleasant friendly atmosphere 
in the speckly light shade of the palms. The lunch there was rice, two 
dates, quarter small cucumber, and lentils, and very good chupatti. 

Last night we had a concert, but were not allowed to applaud, fearing 
that the sound of it across the river might be thought of as rejoicing over 
the air raid. 

This morning cool and pleasant. There is a feeling about of depression 
as the idea creeps in that this may not all be ended so soon. Adrian Bishop 
is not too optimistic: must admit that in the map of the whole Middle 



East we are not so very important, but console ourselves by reflecting that 
our neighbourhood to Oil will prevent us from being forgotten. 

8 May 1941 

Yesterday ended with very good news : the retreat of the enemy near 
Habbaniya with loss of 1,000 casualties and 300 prisoners. A series of 
R.A.F. visits followed, flying quite arrogantly in formation. They must 
have dropped bombs near, possibly on the railway station, as we shook 
and rattled. I was chatting to my boat-load of police as three Wellingtons 
came sailing along, and, when they grabbed their rifles, said, * That's 
absurd; they are much too high to hit* ; whereupon they put their rifles 
back again, much to my surprise. About 7.30, when all our garrison is 
gathered to hear Dr. Sinderson read the news, a Gladiator came swooping 
almost to touch the palm trees on the lawn and drop a letter from Hab- 
baniya all very satisfactory, and all except thirty-two women and 
children safely evacuated to Basra. I did not see this ; only heard a huge 
roar, and saw the rotund behind of our translator under the ofiice table 
in the twinkling of an eye, with a general impression that the enemy were 

Find my way through mazes of barbed wire and lorry barricades to the 
front gate to chat with police there. Quite quiet and apparently friendly 
world outside. 

After dinner at 10 p.m. when my shift was over, I went with V.H. to 
see if a gift of whisky might be acceptable to my police. They won't 
move, however, but continue to sit in the moonlit stream, suggesting I 
should go to their boat rather shocked. 

General Waterhouse has just come in, says he has lost everything at the 
Military Mission, his gold chain, hat, and his temper several times. He 
looks so pleasant, tall and simple, with a great faith in things like sandbags 
and rifles. 

I had a talk with H.E. who complains that there is no means of keeping 
in touch with feeling here a state of affairs already painfully visible four 
years ago. One should have made use of the oil people's opportunities 
ages ago. So annoying to see that we have all the machinery the Germans 
so elaborately fabricate and never trouble to use it. Now that the news 
is better, I hope we are rubbing in the betrayal of the Germans who 
apparently promised aid within two days of the outbreak. Churchill's 
words are rather ominous however, so I suppose we must wait before 

A pleasant conference in the absence of our Ra$ this morning who sent 



word three-quarters of an hour after its time that we should go on without 
him. We had just happily finished, and wandered down to the gate 
where the policeman smiled broadly but refused to give news : * Kull shai 
maku' [Everything is not], he said. The Iraqis claim to have knocked 
down forty-five of our aeroplanes and lost one of their own. 

Last night a huge panache of fire and smoke hung over Baghdad and 
the steely river: it came from an I.P.C. oil-tank on the east side, which 
looks as if it had been set alight accidentally by an Iraqi: difficult to think 
the R.A.F. would bomb our oil-tanks. [They did, however.] 

A horrible beauty there is about a fire in a town. The great con- 
volutions of the smoke rolled northward above the quiet houses : still 
there in the early morning, when Baghdad above the water looks like 
some dingy but still beautiful version of the Grand Canal in Venice. 

9 May 

V.H. took me into the inner Embassy to tea like a lady; very pleasant 
to see polished mahogany, flowers, silver, and not least a little solid food 
like cake and biscuit. Sit about on the lawn till, just before dusk, again a 
small fighter swoops down to visit us. We hunt around but can fibtid no 
message dropped. Pamphlets are being dropped just now, a spatter of 
machine-guns is going on. 

Last evening I gave a lecture on the lawn in the moonlight Aden in 

V.H. and Edmonds very irritated by a long conference full of Luck- 
now spirit of vengeance with plans to humiliate not the present Govern- 
ment but the one that will be replacing it and will presumably be 
composed of our friends, and I wonder anyway if proscriptions have ever 
done much good. It would be a pity if the energies we should keep for 
German dangers be directed to Iraq. I should deal with the five top 
people, the Mufti, and only such others as we know to be working for 
Germany: then concentrate on discrediting Germany with the army here 
(easy, as they must be feeling rather badly let down) : and for the rest, 
treat it as what it is, one of those too frequent ripples which continually 
ruffle the surface of Iraqi politics. 

Walk up and down in moonlight with V.H. The garden is full of pit- 
falls, and barbed wire connects the cypress trees, a trap to the unwary. I 
regret to say that my police, when I talked to them this morning, made most 
unrespectable suggestions: 'Become a Muslima/ one of them says, 'and I 
will keep you myself.' Apart from this indelicate point of view, I am 
sorry to see their minds dwelling on loot and rapine evidently the result 



of the Mufti's preaching of a holy war last night. Cannot understand why 
we, seeing the effect other people manage to obtain through propaganda, 
persist in thinking it quite useless for ourselves. 

10 May 1941 

No aeroplane visited our lawn last evening to our relief, as we felt 
sure the Iraqis had trained their machine-guns and might get it. A few 
explosions far off and the drone of engines show that our Wellingtons are 
busy from time to time. The B.B.C. says we are in Ramadi and Fallujah 
and talk of the Western Iraq Army as ' dispersed' and of the Iraq Air Force 
as finished. Yet here, we continue provided with food through V.H.'s 
correspondence with Abd el Qadir Gailani, our one means of communi- 
cating with the outside world. 

The Lucknow feeling is settling down to one of ease and boredom. I 
should be delighted to take it as a rest-cure while one can, and hate the 
constant efforts of people to make one do things. How pleasant to sit on 
the grass and revive The Decameron ! Adrian Bishop is the only man with 
a mind leisurely and playful enough to do this. 

Dined with H.E. last night: good to sit at a well-set table and wear 
an evening gown (no one need do that as a matter of fact) . But the talk is 
rather shaky, as the guests are chosen in turn in order of merit and that has 
nothing to do with the art of conversation. 

After many struggles I yesterday secured the only lot of cigarettes in 
camp for the cawasses, and everyone had a box. I can at least feel that this 
is useful work, as they were getting neither food, soap, nor smokes 
and Mr. Bourne is diankful to have that part of his job taken off his very 
overweighted shoulders. He is a kind conscientious man, with a look of 
surprise because he has round eyes and round eyebrows on top. Colonel 
Smith, with him on the Food Supply, is well groomed and always tidy in 
a military way. Both of them very pleasant to deal with. 

Pat Domvile tells me he wants to become a cawass so that I shall have 
to look after him. I now have a family of forty-five including the Em- 
bassy servants, the syces and personal servants, the gardeners and all. All 
seems to be going quite smoothly for the time being. Washing and iron- 
ing goes on in a steamy Htde room whence you would think nothing 
could ever emerge clean and tidy, so great is the chaos. 

11 May 1941 
The heat was like an oven, yesterday: a hot wind from the north, 

made damp by floods one blinks one's eyelids as one goes out of doors. 
I could not face a siesta in the garden, or our dormitory of the seventeen 



ladies, or my own balcony so subsided in V.H/s office and he laid 
Bishop's mattress out for me on the floor delicious sleep. One comes to 
take great pleasure out of small and natural events, like sleeping and 
waking, a cool breath from the river, a tendril of the vine pergola. Prison 
gives one time : I am still enjoying that delightful boon, though soon there 
will be too much of it no doubt. 

The moon is almost round already. I sat with V.H. listening to the 
dry rustling trees and watching the dusty light glad to be here though 
one begins to see the end less speedily ahead. There is a want of privacy in 
the garden: heaps of sleeping people everywhere, and everywhere else 
barbed wire. This morning strolling with Adrian Bishop, find S.L. asleep 
on his mattress on the lawn, looking like my Himyar [the pet lizard 
I once cherished] : I think he has the same amiable sort of character too. 

Church this morning only about thirty people, and a poor little 
service shown up by the circumstances which ask for something more 

It is 114 in the shade today. 

Our Blenheims were over this morning and dull substantial thuds 
follow their track. The police are growing glum. My family v caw asses 
agree that they are less amiable since the Mufti's speech and now call them 
Ingliz and promise massacre. They have a Lewis or some such gun on the 
roof overlooking us from the north and unpleasantly convenient for 
hitting our visiting aeroplane. 

H.E. asks whom we should have (later) for dealing with Anglo-Arab 
or any other human relations. It would be disastrous to have the wrong 
man for with luck this may be our chance, and our very last chance, to set 
good relations with Iraq on their feet once more. There is bound to be 
resentment, but it should not be beyond us to switch it against the 

12 May 1941 

Very tired yesterday, what with heat and the natural wear and tear 
of having to listen to blaring and depressing radio matter at intervals from 
4 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

V.H/s office is nice and cool: the Secretariat congregates there for the 
news. A rifle and three boxes of cartridges stand ready by the door. 
Horrid shock this morning to find both big doors, front and back, shut, 
their locks tied up with rope : one has to creep in by devious kitchen ways, 
but this is against the heat not the Iraqis. Even the rosebuds are now 
protected by barbed wire, and the Indians begin to hang their laundry on 
the chevaux dejrise which gives them a domestic look. 



This morning two visits from our aircraft, one Blenheim and one 
fighter both swooping low but not over us either to see if we are still 
alive or to explore the homes of the machine-guns. It is rather depressing 
every day in the news to hear ' all quiet in Iraq', with apparently complete 
forgetfulness of our existence. 

Mr. Bourne is going to try and get some face-powder out of the 
enemy for us. 

13 May 1941 

Yesterday an aeroplane with strange markings came down upon the 
airport. No one knows her : may be Iranian though not the usual weekly 
mail. One of our Gladiators flew over, low, and examined and we then 
heard machine-gunning and the foreign craft has not re-emerged into the 
sky. The news of the Soviet recognizing Iraq, and Von Papen flying to 
Ankara has come to depress us ; the taking of Hess in Scotland to puzzle 
us ; and the third day of hearing of Rutba being in British hands, to irritate 
us. They do this morning add that the possibility of an advance farther east is 
hereby opened up. My expectation is to be here another ten days, or a 
week at least. Some seem hopeful for the day after tomorrow. 

I have made out a list of cosmetics, soaps, etc., for our ladies : I can get 
them by murmuring to the man who goes out for provisions, so it only 
seemed fair to try and make this advantage general and push my list at 
poor V.H., vainly protesting. It is his negotiating with the Minister of 
Foreign Affairs that produces all our food and Sinbad yesterday mentioned 
his name with thanks in the evening talk. 

We have Union Jacks spread out flat on our roof. 

Woken up with heavy crumpling bombs over Rashid in the early 
sunlight. More at night, but they did not wake me. 

14 May 1941 

It continues hot. The big doors are closed except in the evening and 
we have been told to wear topees (as if one could go out shopping) and to 
guard against heat-strokes. The people one is really grateful to are the 
gardeners who go about their ancient pleasant toil just as though this were 
still an Embassy and not a siege. We have put Dr. R. to organize a play for 
Sunday, so immediate is our hope of rescue. He is a young man with a 
round forehead and longish yellow hair who becomes serious and 
animated only when you talk of Drama: otherwise he is serious but not 
animated. He lives among the finer feelings, but they are a shadowy food 
for wartime, and he is faced with the discovery that all these blossoms of 
civilization by themselves will neither feed, protect, nor even comfort 



you. I am sorry for him for I don't believe lie can temper these refine- 
ments and turn them into the true steel they should be made of. The 
thought of the play makes him much happier and he is talking about 
entrances and calls as if his stage were really a world. 

Others are beginning to show here and there slight gleams of im- 
patience, especially those whose work is calling outside, 

A spent bullet tied with a piece of string to a notice has been paraded 
before us all to impress on us the dangers of walking in the garden when 
people shoot. As the whole place has been snapping with machine-guns 
and only one bullet was picked up, it seems to me that the argument works 
the other way, but that may be just my undisciplined mind. 

What is sad is to see how easily all those traits come to the surface 
which we think of as Nazi: just the sort of thing we are fighting against 
with all our resources leaps at one from all sides as soon as the Lucknow 
atmosphere develops. So far, however, we have kept our Nazis well 
under and a general spirit of amiability prevails. 

The Ladies' harim very pleased with the arrival of face-powder ! 

IS May 1941 

Small female sensation caused yesterday afternoon by our Prima 
Donna who appeared coated and hatted, widi two valises, on the lawn. 
Her luggage has arrived from the hotel no one quite knows how, but 
presumably through the police. Apart from this she is causing some 
scandal by strolling about in nothing much more than a camisole and 
sleeping in the downstairs' ladies' dormitory 'mid noddings on* at all, 
where the Greek lady says c We do not like all to have to look at her 
body/ So Mrs. Pott is to speak to her. N.B. A siege no place for people 
with temperaments. 

Apart from a visit high above, yesterday and today, of a black-and- 
white Andan, like a delicate butterfly overhead, and noises of invisible 
explosions, we have no news. A rumour brought back from marketing 
that Grobba 1 is back and German aeroplanes in Mosul. The former quite 
likely. B.B.C. talks of reinforcements, but only in Basra and Hab- 
baniya (R. A.P) no visible prospect of a rescue from the West. 

Last night I walked up and down with V.H. talking of possibilities 
of escape very thin. This morning I went with Bishop and saw the 
police reclining under the awning of their hot little launch holding 
strings with fish-hooks. Two fish called bunin with flat round mouths 
were twisting their tails there and the police were very ready to come and 
1 The German Ambassador in Iraq in 1939* 
H [lOl] 


give them, while I handed over 2$ojils with the other hand. The disa- 
greeable policeman was not there and the other four are very amiable. 

The news two days ago of Grobba's return and German plane in 
Mosul is probably true, 1 as today's news mentions the use of Syrian 
aerodromes, the destruction of German aircraft there by the R.A.F., and 
Germans in Iraq. The mysterious aeroplane with disguised marking is 
now explained. 

16 May 1941 

Last night at one a.m. one of our fighters came low, dropped a flare on 
the airport, and went looking, no doubt, for Germans. We may, of 
course, be here weeks but anyone could have seen that days ago. Mean- 
while we are all being inoculated for typhoid to fill in the time. 

Our Ras got at the General and put up a very nice open-air cinema 
against the advice of all the rest of us and H.E. at once said the showing 
of light was far too risky. Bishop and I agree that our lower natures are 
delighted, though I must say that I do regret it really : indoor amusements 
are almost unbearable this hot weather, and the inside of the house alto- 
gether dreary: somnolent figures in all the drabness of masculine dis- 
habille plunged in semi-darkness of dismantled rooms, with whirring of 
fans overhead. Only the blue fountain shoots up its little splashing grate- 
ful sound. The ballroom is like pictures of the first emigrant ships. The 
oriental is much better at the nomadic life even among the trappings of 
the West: his carpet and his samovar are usually at hand, and he instinc- 
tively settles in a circle while we, each defending his own privacy, 
vainly try to make small barricades of our boxes and belongings. Yester- 
day the Lahore doctor's wife, mother of baby Sarah, appeared in a peach- 
coloured sari embroidered with silver, and was a pleasure to all to look at 
as she moved about the withering grass. 

Loopholes are being made to the front-door sandbags. Also more 
permanent eating arrangements, and our two offices are given as dining- 
rooms instead of the out-of-door table where all went to get their cup 
and plate and ate when and how they could. 

The policeman at the gate, staggered by the mass of cosmetics we sent 
for, said he couldn't think how the harim which is to be murdered in a 
few days could still be thinking of things like face-powder. 

A woman asked if I didn't think it time for us to give up using our 
lipsticks but I mean to be killed, if it comes to that, with my face in proper 

1 It was true. 


17 May 

The Vichy French today say that it was only by accident that twenty- 
two out of thirty German aeroplanes force-landed in Syria. Nauseating. 
Eight hundred tons of ammunition are said to have been sent from there. 
Yesterday I saw my first Messerschmitt of the war a locust creature 
buzzing out north-west against the white clouds on the tail of two of ours 
that had come over. This morning two Germans were seen to fall in 
flames over Rashid camp. 

A feeling of gloom I do not share, since one could not have a better 
field to meet an enemy than this of Egypt Palestine Iraq so far and 
difficult for him. We must wait, hoping that our importance on the 
Indian route may bring us relief but not I imagine very speedy. The 
gloom I think comes from a silly habit of trying to hide the dark prospects 
instead of frankly asking the whole community to share. This treating of 
everyone as if they 'were small children would make a saint gloomy. 
Have also decided that I will not submit to any education while here: 
lectures, informative papers, uplift of all sorts, is henceforth to flow 
innocuously far above my head. I sat through half a lecture on Iceland 
about which I have not the faintest curiosity and then strolled in the hot 
and restless wind to see the river still flowing swiftly though less full. It 
looks in the early morning like metal pouring hurriedly to sea. The stars 
were faint in a dusty sky that eats the lower constellations. The days now 
climb to 112, 115 in the shade. 

We have moved office and are in the upstairs untidy purlieus of 
Chancery, a little world of its own far more cheerful than the dim rail- 
way waiting-room atmosphere below. 

I walked up and down with H.E. lonely and harassed but with a 
steady strength in him a rugged, tall old bit of weather-beaten rock. 
Talked with him about the General's bombs : beer-cans filled with paraf- 
fin and a cotton-wool fuse to ensure our massacre in most certain fashion 
if we ever use them. Only useful thing here is to rely as completely as 
possible on the Iraqis: preferably quite disarmed. 

V.H. has to write a daily letter to the Chefde Protocok for our food 
supply. Today's list includes ten tins solid brilliantine, Kotex, and moth- 
balls the latter must be the order of a pessimist. 

18 May 1941 
Last night great flares were dropped by the R.A.F. I climbed to a 

roof where no one would be shoving me down and saw a yellow star 
above Rashid sinking slowly into the kcework of the palms. Little fans of 
light spread out and spluttered from the ground, but there was no noise 


because the wind was downstream. I walked to the nagged path by the 
river and called to the police in the dusk: 'That is our airmen beating the 
German/ 'Yes, indeed,' said they with the greatest cheerfulness. The 
Baghdad radio has not yet mentioned the Germans' arrival though they 
had a grand funeral for thek commander, Von Blomberg's son. An Iraqi 
soldier, shooting in his light-hearted way at anything in the sky, sent a 
bullet through the side window of his aeroplane into his throat, and he 
was dead when they touched the ground. 1 Iraq takes the credit for any- 
thing done in the air, on either side ; the two aircraft shot down yesterday 
were said to be British strangely sitting on Rashid aerodrome ! As I was 
out by the river another flare appeared, over north Baghdad and 
descended rather suddenly: the parachute cord must have snapped. 
Only hope it wasn't over the hospital. It threw a sword-like luminosity 
upon the river, making the long line of houses black above it. The flares 
in this dusty atmosphere give a warm reddish light. 

We work in our new quarters upstairs where numbers of people of 
Chancery live. Our only terrace gives on to the river and might be cool if 
not screened off with sacking : I ask why and am told it is to stop the snip- 
ing and that is the first I know that we have been sniped at apparently at 
dusk and dawn from houses on the other side. Bullets do come pinging 
over as one does one's hair behind a pillar on the terrace, but I thought 
they were casual. 

A note has come asking for all our Iraqi servants. Yesterday V.H. 
replied protesting Diplomatic Usage: if this has no effect, we shall have 
to send them away, as they are threatened with death : but even now they 
would probably be oppressed if they leave us. Another German sign is the 
first jamming this morning of Arabic news from London. 

Newton, the butler, kindly offered to clean my white shoes this 
morning. What makes this camp life go is that everyone is out to help 
instead of to crab and if ordinary life were run on the same principle 
there would be hardly any problems left. 

Loveliness of the river before sunrise so much water; it looks like a 
solid thing, some great dragon hurtling to the sea and the ripples are the 
swing of its muscles as it moves. Its light has a million litde breaks where 
every ripple pushes up a tiny crest, so that it is a multitudinous light, 
holding shadows in its heart like happiness, or grass in sunshine. And the 

1 The Rashid All Government, full of consternation, sent a deputation to assure 
the German Ambassador that they would rather have lost 7,000 soldiers than suffer 
a disaster of this magnitude. Dr. Grobba's rather endearing reply seems to have 
been: "Nonsense, no man's life is worth 7,000 soldiers." 



houses on the other side have fascinating detail: dark mouths of steep 
streets that go down : a pointed bellam moored here or there below the 
walls: small patches of garden, a trellis of vine or orange where some rich 
Jewish merchant now lives in fear. The jade-green bridges upstream and 
down, whose curves make the only hills we have for miles, and the 
finger-minarets and domes, make the view more like a book than real 
life. One can't think of this as real life at all. 

. ig May 1941 

I went to breakfast with H.E. this morning and discussed arranging 
some means of communicating with Iraqi friends outside in case of need 
which might arise. 

Delhi news this morning says, 'Baghdad situation obscure because all 
communication cut, but it is believed the Ambassador and Military 
Mission are safe.' 

Another B.B.C. gem last night describes us as 'calm* and goes on to 
mention the taking of a police post twenty-five miles south of Basra five 
days ago. This morning's news says, 'Iraq situation developing satis- 
factorily.' Adrian Holman 1 says he can't see the satisfactorily : I say I can't 
even see the developing. 

No answer to our protests against the cawasses being threatened with 
death. On the other hand yesterday a letter asking for Colonel Smith's 
car, which is State property. 

Today our water supply has stopped. They say it is throughout 
Baghdad but very inconvenient. Pat has been washing his head all over 
with hair lotion. He has a very pleasant sleeping place for his mattress over 
the river, with a big tree and the bridge visible beyond, but just beside the 
terrace at which they snipe. 

I now go every morning to see that the cawasses really get their 
proper rations and there is a great tussle for things like onions, oranges, 
etc. We ought to be laying in stores, as nothing much can be arriving in 
Baghdad from Basra or the West and things will be getting short but it 
seems very difficult to do. 

This morning I went for the first time at 6.30 to a gymnastic class, 
pleasantly barefoot on the fresh lawn. What John Macrae considers very 
light leaves us quite breathless. 

I walked about the lawn with Adrian Bishop in the kte afternoon and 
read the Latin psalms in his breviary soothing lovely language, clothing 
so fitly that deep and pure and early faith. Life, to be happy at all, must 

1 Attached to the Baghdad Embassy 1940; now Sir Adrian Holman, K.B.E., 
C.M.G., M.C. 


be in its way a sacrament, and a failure in religion is to divorce it from 
the holy acts of everyday, of ordinary human existence. The Greeks saw 
in every drink of water, in every fruitful tree, in every varied moment of 
their living, the agency of a God. 

I forget if I noted down that all the women and children from Hab- 
baniya got safe away, though one of their aeroplanes was shot at while 
taking off. 

Though Von Blomberg's son has been killed and Rashid AH went to 
bis funeral, the presence of the Germans is still not yet officially admitted 
by Iraqi wireless. 

20 May 1941 

Events today began with the scrunch of heavy bombs over Rashid and 
twenty-six of our fliers in the sky. The little Gladiators sail over us in 
threes, their black made grey by the sunlight shining from above them 
so that in size and colour they look very like the grey and white doves that 
circle agitated from the garden trees. Over Rashid the bombers sail and 
dip and the dull noise follows ; they circle in far wide curves in the early 
sky. One fighter flies the whole length of New Street almost touching the 
minarets, dropping leaflets, and the first burst of ground fire comes only 
from beyond the line of defence in Baghdad north. But when the sun has 
risen and we have all had breakfast, another fighter comes and answers 
signals at risk of its life, swooping down to the palm trees of our garden 
while the machine-guns which seem to encircle us on three sides spit out 
with most venomous barking. 

I am a little ill and feeble and therefore lying on Bish's bed in V.H/s 
office under my Kurdi rug, and pleasantly engaged with Alice through the 
Looking Glass and Bish and V.H. to talk to. First really nice meal for a 
long time. 

Now, four in the afternoon, just heard that Faflujah is taken, bridge, 
town and all. Thank God. No details except surrender of town; leaflets 
were dropped, air and ground attack, and the whole given over. Really 
brings relief in sight. Hope Ramadi and tribes may follow. 

Played bridge last night with Pat, Bish and Tom Arnold in the latter's 
room all surrounded with Aids to Living such as soda-water bottles, 
suitcases, and mattresses, and people coming in all the time to find their 
bedding, etc. 

21 May 1941 
News today that the German attack on Crete has failed. Fallujah was 

invested on three sides by air-carried troops in spite of the Iraq attempt at 



flooding the intervening land ; it surrendered at 2 p.m. on Monday the 
I9th, and the bridge is intact. 

Only novelty this morning is a large guard of army instead of police 
at our gate. Watch them from upstairs checking our food as it comes in: 
tins of bully beef are tipped out of one box into another -I suppose to 
discover letters. It looks as if the house opposite the gate, whose upper 
windows dominate our court, were to be Army H.Q. for our guard. 
Message sent in, would we mind not waving, running, or showing our- 
selves unnecessarily when our aircraft are about as 'bad people have 
guns' and might shoot. Some, it appears, have been taking a few shots 

22 May 1941 

News this morning is that the Regent is to be back in Baghdad shortly 
to resume his duties and Gerald [de Gaury] is representing H.M.G. till the 
reunion with H.E. is effected : he is * CornwalHs's vice-regent on earth' 
says Bish. 

Fallujah news is evidently abroad for the police knew about it. 
Talked to them last night. A soldier is in the boat with them, surprised 
but pleased at our chat from over the wall. I talk to them after dark: 
they say the Germans are { Shiql ash-Shaitan 9 (of the kin of Satan), and say 
'Al hamdu lillaki (thank God) when I tell them we have brought six 
down between Habbaniya and Syria. 'We have burnt forty of yours/ they 
add dutifully. *I take refuge with God/ say I and they shout with 
laughter, not having believed for a moment. Can't help thinking the 
Germans must be disappointed in Iraq. 

Two sentries stand very wideawake at the other gate, but perhaps 
because the officer is sitting near them in the shade. 

The day is very hot and stuffy, but I feel better, and pain less. Very 
difficult to be ill here and V.H. chafing rather under the infliction of 
feminine oddments in his office, says it looks like a boudoir. 

Mr. Eden telegraphs in answer to our forwarding of Iraqi complaints. 
Threatens drastic reprisals for any injury to * defenceless civilians', i.e. us. 
No further news of the death sentence on our Iraqi caw asses. 

First apricots come into camp today. 

23 May 1941 

Unofficial report this morning says the British troops are twenty 
miles away by Khan Nuqta presumably. Soldiers were on the cafe roof 
opposite to our west wall kst night, but this morning all our soldier 
guards have vanished and the friendly police are back again. Martial law 

[I0 7 ] 


is proclaimed in Baghdad and Kirkuk, and guns and lorries crash over the 
bridges in the night. 

Busy with Bish writing our report for Cairo. Last night I sat out 
with V.H. on the hot damp lawn, the stars thick in a tired sky: two dull 
rifle shots hut no one pays attention. I bet him 50jfz/s that the British 
will be here by Sunday. 

Have now got my cawasses* meals well in hand. The kitchen com- 
plains that everyone has to wait till they get served. I turn upon them 
rather severely when they ask for the first apricots. 'You never buy the 
first things in season, do you ? ' say I. 

4 Yes, indeed we do we are obliged to buy and divide them for the 

'Well there aren't any dead here yet, thank God,' and the matter 
ended with two handfuls carefully hidden under the bread flaps, 

Tom Arnold has had toothache for three weeks and the Minister for 
Foreign Affairs today sent a dentist together with a policeman wearing the 
Red Crescent for this suitable occasion. I think one should send a letter 
of thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they have been so kind and 

24 May 1941 

The B.B.C. this morning tells us that the Regent is in Iraq pre- 
sumably Basra. The Iraqis counter-attacked at Fallujah and were repulsed 
on Wednesday night. [The Regent was at Habbaniya.] 

Lengthy argument with my four Jewish sweepers who, trampled on 
by all, ding to Religion which forbids them to eat animal fats. They were 
convinced that ghee is mutton. With difficulty I get them to accept 
'Spry' out of a tin instead, staking my soul it is only coconut. 

I sat a long time in H.E.'s cool office this morning while machine- 
guns pattered about across the river against some passing aircraft which 
we are now blas6 about. H.E. has written a very fine farewell speech for 
the moment of our release. In his measured way he always comes 
straight to the centre of the matter. 

Evening bridge in the newsroom. The game takes one's mind off 
the terrible uncertainty of Crete. One of the Polish sisters played, neat 
and Aigante as ever with an air of being self-possessed in an unimportant 
world. I go back to undress in pitch-dark dormitory at 11.30. 

25 May 1941 
A little Gladiator came swinging over to look at us this morning, 

turning in the sunlight quite low across the river, while we were awakened 



by machine-guns crackling remarkably near. Could not find in myself the 
slightest trace of fear I suppose one gets accustomed very quickly. 

The relieving army is held up round Fallujah by floods. The Amarat 
and Naseriya tribes seem to have sided with the Regent. Otherwise 
yesterday went by without news of any kind. Bish and I finished our 
report. We have fallen into a routine here, not unpleasant if one could 
forget the outside world. There is something rather touching about all 
these middle-aged men doing their various jobs : there is no zest about it 
for them as there is with the young. 

26 May 1941 

News that Ramadi was bombed, that Nuri 1 is returning. Rumours 
(from our river police) that there is trouble for the rebel Cabinet; and 
news of Ministers and families rushing off to Turkey or Iran. 

A rather weary feeling here, as we seem to be forgotten. News that 
a post five miles from Basra is captured when weeks ago we were told of 
the taking of Qurna so much nearer comes rather like a douche. 

Yesterday I lay most of the day on my mattress in V.H/s office. Very 
touched by offerings brought in Seton with barley sugar and Harold 
(Pennefeather) with a priceless half-bottle of champagne, consumed in the 
blue mausoleum light which allows V.H. to keep his windows open, 
while I take my dinner off a tray. Bish is induced to taste a little in a 
tumbler. Never was champagne so good. 

6.30 p.m. 

An aeroplane has just swooped to about a hundred yards over the lawn 
and dropped a message : little weighted packet sewn up in calico with two 
long streamers of calico, red, blue and yellow. It came with engine cut 
off, and no shot was fired. 

The packet just opened is full of private letters and a half-sheet 
from Gerald telling all the news we know already: no word of a relief 
really an unimaginative effort. 

Three notes today from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the most 
important being a protest against our having (they say) rigged up wireless 
on the roof. V.H.'s reply, which is polite but slightly badinage, is not 
approved of. Wonder if it will ever be known how much our comfort 
here is due to his handling of the correspondence. 

Pat, walking up and down the lawn, remarks that never more will he 
enjoy an Embassy garden party here. 
1 Nuri as-Said Pasha, the * Grand Old Man* of Iraq, murdered in 1958. 



27 May 1941 

News gloomier daily from Crete and delay here very dangerous. 

Called this morning to read H.E.'s speech which is good as ever. I 
am fond of his plain rugged face and the slow smile beginning to curl his 
mouth and ending with a sideway look of his light blue eyes. He got 
three letters from Madge [his wife in Basra] and looks quite renovated. 

Spatter of machine-guns wakes us as a Gladiator sails over. I go to 
the General's in the morning to get notes on 'The Golden Square' for my 
article and find the police in the boat with three fish flapping on a string. 
They climb up the outer side of the barbed wire; our hands just meet for 
the necessary exchange (250^/5) ; I say, 'in a few days the Regent will be 
back and we shall be out and you will be comfortable too/ * If God wills, ' 
they say. 

I found the cawasses heaving all their meat over the parapet into the 
river because they said it smelt. So it did, but apparently Dr. Mills had 
seen it and said it was all right (I didn't go with them, feeling rather ill still 
but it shows how necessary it is to go). We had all eaten the same meat 
and it seemed good enough when cooked. I must give a little homily 

2$ May 1941 

Gunfire has been thudding steadily since four this morning, coming 
gradually nearer. They think it is by Aqqa Kuf and may be cutting across 
country towards Kadhimain. Now (8 a.m.) it begins to shake the 
window-panes slightly. 

Small arms they say have been heard from the direction of the iron 
bridge. There is something quite indescribable in the slow approach of 
this noise, so full of fate, so full of all the unknown, and so much a contrast 
to our stagnation here. 

30 May 1941 

The guns died away in the afternoon, and started again, they say, at 
night. Curfew in Baghdad was put on to 8.30 and our police guard 
doubled in case of trouble. Cavalry led their horses across the bridges 
eastward at about ten at night. This morning we woke to the sight of 
twenty bombers and a fighter above. Explosions shook the walls. They 
seem to be bombing artillery at Kadhimain and probably along the road 
from Khan Nuqta (sixteen miles away). The B.B.C. speaks of 'our 
advance on Baghdad*. 

Everyone here begins to look a litde pale and feds the month's 
internment has lasted long enough. 



Yesterday H.E. and most of Chancery and I lunched with our caw- 
asses flowers on the table fruit salad. 

Quarrel made up. It started by Ishak (Christian) dipping his Unbe- 
liever's cup in Shi'a tea. 

A military Governor, Yunus Sabawi, is just named in Baghdad. 

11 a.m. 

Our aeroplanes fly over continuously, keeping high and going to the 
north. The police are building sandbag defence posts at our gates to pro- 
tect us. We have cut our rations today in case no fresh supply comes in 

3-30 P-m- 

Just heard that the Amin el-Asima [mayor] has sent to say the Govern- 
ment has gone and Baghdad is in his hands : the army inside the town 
turned the rebel army out : all the preparations we saw and which had dis- 
turbed us, such as taking lellams to the east bank, etc., were directed not 
against us but against the rebels. 

The position and whereabouts of the 'rebel army' are still 'obscure*. 
At present the loyal troops in Baghdad are only two battalions. Some of 
their guns they put on the mosques. 

6 p.m. 

A delegation has come police, young Ghazi Daghestani, and the 
Amin to ask for an armistice, and beg that the constitution of Iraq may 
not be taken away from them. H.E. has made a wonderful speech in 
Arabic telling them that as he and King Feisal made the constitution, it is 
safe in his hands. The armistice request is forwarded to G.O.C. The little 
Amin, in lovely dove-grey suiting, is smiling three times round his face : 
the young officers are also very friendly a feeling of family reunion and 
bygones be bygones about it all. Much touched by the cawasses, syces, 
and gardeners, who all came up with shining eyes to say al-hamdu lillahi 
and shake hands. 

The American Minister came, looking as if he were just off a yacht, 
and told us quite cheerful news of their prison. Their cars were all taken 
away and they spent an hour in cellars having been told they were to be 
bombed but nothing happened. 

Everyone then hung about for hours with nothing much to fill them. 
Then the visitors left and H.E. spoke from the steps. 

'The Golden Square*, Rashid Ali, the Italian Minister and the Mufti 1 
1 The Mufti slipped through. 



are all interned at Qasr Shirin, and the armistice is telegraphed for. After 
this, in a sort of golden mist of sunset our bombers and fighters came sail- 
ing: they came in troops and societies, their outline sharp in the luminous 
sky: they separated and circled and dived, going vertically down at 
dreadful speed, like swordfish of the air. The crack of bombs followed at 
few seconds' intervals. It was like graceful and gigantic play nothing 
more lovely than that dive, start, and re-breasting of the heavens. But it 
makes one think with a sick sort of feeling of Crete at this moment. 

At about eight, V.H. brought two Iraqi officers into the office, 
anxious to arrange the surrender before tomorrow dawn. Young 
Daghestani, a nice lad, speaks perfect English, Staff College at Quetta : the 
other is an older man from Mosul very much on the defensive. 

The difficulty about the white flag is that at night anything will be 
shot at, but a wire is to be sent to Habbaniya and V.H. is dying to go and 
risk possible bullets on the road. Arrangements are suggested for recog- 
nizing the car, which is to move slowly and show undimmed lights full 

Today for the first rime I stepped out of the Chancery gate and asked 
the police to pose for their photographs which they did. 

31 May 1941 

Fighting ceased 4 to 4.30 a.m. This morning H.E. went out with 
Gerald de Gaury who got here for breakfast to arrange the truce. Absolute 
orgy of activity all over the Chancery with typists flying in and out. 

Bill Bailey arrived last night. He was seized while scattering pam- 
phlets on Friday, the 2nd of May, and has had vicious treatment five 
days hand-cuffed to the wall, scarcely any food, water thrown over his 
face when thirsty, Futua [The Youth Movement] coming to bait him, and 
then taken to filthy cells with murderers. He looks very thin and strained 
but called it * a glorious experience ; you would have given anything for it' 
(extreme overstatement as far as I am concerned !). He drove from one 
prison to the other and saw our flag down and thought we were finished. 
The warders were quite human and decent: the police all abominable 
and all the crowds brought in were as horrible as possible a sad story. 

I realize strongly how lucky I was in Khanikin all other English 
out at that time had wretched experiences. The reluctance to put me on 
the Baghdad train was not accidental as I then thought: they were carry- 
ing out orders and only my bantering shamed them into letting me go. 

Yesterday a horrid, aggressive Colonel came asking for the armistice 
in a hurry to save further pounding. V.H. left this representative with me 



and I was confirmed in my feeling that the Iraqis' manners when bad are 
the worst of all the Arabs. With great labour I began to tame him when 
Pat came and dealt beautifully, but evoked no response to anti-German 
remarks. It seems that Grobba, the German ex-Ambassador, came here 
for four days and gave it up as a bad job. 

Many houses appear to have been gutted by the sequestrators who 
were to look after them. The camp where about 150 British and 300 
others were interned was quite well treated. About 150 British were also 
in the American Legation. 

The armistice is signed terms very lenient but I take it the fighting 
is not over as Grobba is still in Mosul. They will doubtless hold the north 
if they can. 


All gates were open this morning ; H.E. made a moving speech was 
cheered and all available cars went to meet the Regent. I jumped into 
Ernest Main's car with Seton Lloyd. The crowd looked, I thought, very 
ugly remarkable change from a month ago. This ugly temper con- 
firmed by people who went out later. We drive across the iron bridge 
no visible damage anywhere except at the corner of Feisal Maidan. 
Police all along. Army cars try to pass us. No friendly spirit visible. 

Mounted police every fifty or hundred yards all along in the low 
scrub and weeds where we turn right from the iron bridge: then left 
through barbed-wire entanglements unfinished, and along the canal 
(waterless and unfinished) on right. Rather derelict Iraqi outposts ; and 
dien we reach the British marvellous look of solidity. I am the only 
woman in all this gathering (and worried at having no stockings and very 
short skirts) and reap perfect harvest of smiles. Long line of cars glittering 
in the sun; through the dust their back windows send sword-like flashes. 
Armoured cars. We have done this with only two battalions colossal 

Regent's car sighted. Army, police, Ministers, British, coalesce. 
Regent very smiling and gentle -Nun looking finished. 

I join Gerald standing there very cheerful. Tells me how he waited 
last night for the Iraqi surrender in a lonely pkce with marshy patches, 
holding on to a white flag while the Regent's representatives, getting more 
and more jumpy, finally disappeared in his (Gerald's) car. They were 
turned round again by British troops. The surrenderers arrived quite 
correctly but kte, and the fighting ceased. 

As we drive back we meet the visitors leaving the Regent's majliss 


in the Palace of Flowers : Mujtahids (Elders) in black turbans, Christian 
bishops with red and black, sheikhs, politicians, none I feel looking very 
friendly. The military band is smart and the Regent's soldiers seem very 
fit and fought well, shooting from trenches round Kadhimain. 

2 June 1941 

Yesterday afternoon was a time of general departure. Glubb leaves 
with his legion; Gerald leaves for Jerusalem. People visit their houses, 
many such as Sinbad's, Holman's, etc, left like a shambles and filthy 
beyond words. 

Mistaken idea that all is over. 

I see H.E. with the war correspondents in the evening. He surprised 
me by saying he thought the town looked friendly. I feel it very much to 
the contrary and think it is a pity we did not bring the Regent in with a 
good show of troops or aeroplanes. Always the choice between placating 
one's enemies or encouraging one's friends. But the pretence that this is 
an Iraqi spontaneous Restoration is just nonsense, so we might as well get 
the advantages as well as the disadvantages of being behind it. 

However, we kept well in the background. Ernest Main, who is a 
first-rate man, asked to take over Press and radio at once : was told it is not 
our affair but Iraqi so nothing done except total cessation of propaganda 
of every sort, and now we have a night of snapping rifles, police posts 
doubled, Jews murdered (reports vary between a dozen and five hundred, 
and Abdullah Ezra says he was 'wading in blood' up Ghazi Street). The 
shooting is getting momently stronger. The mayor is telephoning to say 
he wants to resign: and the new Cabinet is not yet formed. 

Rashid Ali, meanwhile, is issuing proclamations. 

A batch of our own prisoners were brought in today looking very 
worn and many wounded: about thirty of them given breakfast in the 

Had hoped to leave tomorrow, but it begins to look remote. 

R. was in the Iran Bank when the looting and shooting of Jews and 
Christians began ; machine-guns in River Street ; he was locked up in the 
safe. The bank clerks crossed with him in a boat a very brave thing to 
do : six looters leaped into it and were pushed into the river : and they got 
across looking like a peaceful summer party and hailed me as I was talking 
to my police (not putting up my parasol because of all the sniping). 
Lucky for R. I was there as the police would not have let him land. He 
just missed a bullet anyway. 

Pat telephones from an hotel to say there is looting all down Rashid 


Street, chiefly by army and police taking a rake-off. He suggests a launch 
to rescue the people in river hotels, under the impression there is no firing 
on the river. Eventually thinks hetter for everyone to stay where they 

H.E. is closeted with Generals. V.H. has heen twice to urge sending 
for troops and dare not go a third time, and one realizes why battles can be 
lost by a sheer inability to get the data to the people who make the deci- 

8 p.m. 

The riot has died down. Curfew at five and everyone showing is 
shot. I brought Husain, the policeman, in to tea and he said they had been 
told to fire real stuff and killed sixty or seventy in the afternoon. New 
Street from the air looks as if strewn with confetti, the loot lying out in 
the street. Number of killed will never be known: a family with three 
children came in today had seen two dead Jews in the street and their 
own house gutted. Reports say the police were helping to loot yesterday. 

Ernest Main flew to Mosul where ninety-seven have been shut up in the 
Consulate and tiny garden. Found the airport completely deserted, even 
by the police, on his return here, and got out very gingerly fearing sur- 

My cawass comes with a new topee says he got it from a heap of 
loot collected by the police at our gate, and paid for it with one of my 
boxes of cigarettes! 

Gerald tells me that the army in Basra expected their advance up the 
Tigris to take twelve months less than in the last war i.e. two years 

Sat this afternoon quietly embroidering on the lawn, with Bish and 
Bill Bailey pleasant peace. Cypress trees smelling aromatic in the sun. 
Very few people; but now in the evening isolated houses are being 
rounded up and lots of old friends reappear. 

The little King who was coming today was turned back at Ba'Quba. 

Extraordinary sight the bridges: stream of people going empty- 
handed eastward, coming back laden with spoil. 

Our Mosul people are to be evacuated tonight by air. We are anxious 
to occupy the town. 

Everyone is slowly gathering back here. Rather desolate feeling. 
Judge Pritchard telephoned from Alwiyah this afternoon shooting all 
around and he alone in his house with his servant. Advised to make for 
American Legation. The American secretaries* cars have been shot at as 
they went about tonight. 


3 June 1941 

All quiet this morning and the inmates of the Embassy are allowed to 
go out freely. Pat came back with grave accusations of police helping the 
looters. A new Government under Jamil Madfa'i is now in power. V.H. 
has been to the Serai where it operates in completely sacked offices. News 
of Germans in Syria darkens our horizon. I think the main stream will 
turn Egyptwards, but who can tell? 

Coming and going makes the Chancery like a railway station: 
officers from Habbaniya, colonels from Basra, Cawthorn 1 from Cairo, 
Iraqis, people here leaving, cars scrunching, cawasses returning. Eighteen 
still in prison: V.H. went to rescue them. Two Britishers in Kadhimain 
were, we hear, shot out of hand. 

In the afternoon Bish and I leave in a Lockheed with Colonel Caw- 
thorn and a few other officers who had come over to confer. We refuel 
at Habbaniya which looks spick and span from outside though there is a 
good deal of debris here and there inside, they say, if you look close. 
Fallujah looked intact too and its minaret is certainly standing. Fascinating 
to look down on the battlefield, the low waves of the plateau where the 
Iraqi guns were placed, and the watery blue flats into which we pushed 
them; and Fallujah and its little bridge like a miniature beyond. Reach 
Lydda just as daylight goes in a glowering sunset, and Jerusalem and the 
King David Hotel in the dark. What a dinner, with champagne, at 10.33 
in the Regence I The people dancing look quite awful compared with our 
nice shabby crowd to which we have grown accustomed ! 

1 Now Major-General Sir Walter Cawthorn, C.B., C.I.E., C.B.E., then Head of the 
Middle East Intelligence Centre. 


Baghdad (1941, 1942) and Cyprus 

In the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, under the eyes of the barman 
who was known to be a German spy, the whole of Cairo seemed to 
be packing its kit to cross into Syria, for a war which opened next 
morning with an old-fashioned cavalry charge: commanders with 
field-glasses on opposite hills the Spahis and the Cheshire Yeo- 
manry against each other. General Wilson 1 was housed in a modest 
little H.Q. in the valley; General Catroux 2 looked ten years younger 
with a war of his own in prospect; Aly Khan in the hotel lounge 
rushed up to embrace me and said he had feared me dead ; and Crete, 
which had filled our captivity with the echo of its eighteen days' 
resistance, now showed itself to us in eye-witness accounts, with all 
the gravity which the B.B.C. had cautiously suppressed; few recog- 
nized it at that moment as the successful turning-point of the Middle 
Eastern war. The massed parachutes had made a deep impression. 
"It seems very noisy," our Minister said at breakfast one morning, 
having reached the island from Athens, and scouted the idea of an 
attack. * c If you look out of this window, you will see the parachutes, 
Sir," his A.D.C. replied. 

As for my Brotherhood Pam was at the King David, in bed 
with jaundice, Phyllida Pumphrey down with sandfly fever in Cairo, 
and Ronnie Fay carrying on alone ; any idea of a few days' leave was 
done away with. Two friends in the 4th Hussars gave me a lift 
across Sinai; Ismailia in moonlight was stiff with troops; Bill Astor 

1 General Sir Henry Maidand Wilson, G.C.B., G.B.E., D.S.O., now Field-Marshal 
Lord Wilson of Libya and of Stowlangtoft : G.O.C. British Forces in Palestine and 
Transjordan, 1941 ; C. in C. Allied Forces in Syria, 1941 ; G.O.C, 9th Army, 1941 ; 
C. in C. Persia and Iraq, 1942-43 ; C. in C. Middle East, 1943 ; Supreme Allied 
Commander, Mediterranean Theatre, 1944. 

2 Commanding the Free French. 

1 [ IJ 7] 


was stationed, there and found us a camp-bed somewhere; I was 
in Cairo next day to arrange my handing over; and in less than a 
month had returned to Iraq to take up the peace-making jobs of 

In writing the story of an enterprise, it is easy to give an illusion 
that the whole, rather than one small facet only, is being presented 
to the reader. In Iraq there were many colleagues on my job 
assistants in education, Stewart Perowne extracted from Aden to 
take over the Embassy Publicity, Adrian Bishop and his group, the 
British Council and the Political Officers in their districts they were 
all engaged in one way or another on this labour. 

'The British Council particularly, offending no nationalism, 
should,' I wrote in some report, 'take all the weight it can carry. 
When everything else withdraws, there is every chance that these 
institutes will remain and flourish . . . and where we have first-rate 
people as here, the good it is doing is immense/ 1 The teaching ser- 
vice for the Levant never got properly started and many present 
troubles derive from that omission. The influence of my own 
Brotherhood and of Adrian Bishop's little group 2 has been drowned 
in the nationalist sea : yet they did their work in the critical years, and 
held their sharp instrument by the handle: and so did an unobtrusive 
set too easily overlooked the Political Officers in the outlying pro- 
vinces of all these lands. Below the turmoil of politics their names 
are still recalled in the districts where they laboured, and their com- 
munities remember them as friends. I returned later after an eleven 
years' absence and found this to be so. 'Iraq was in a mess and it 
required a concerted effort to get it right/ Sir Kinahan wrote to me 
later on. 'You will remember that I always attached the greatest 
importance to that, and so in order to get at all grades of society 
we had the Political Advisors in the districts and the Public Relations 
Officers reaching the public by means of . . . reading rooms, etc. . . . 
and your Brotherhood and the British Institute, and the Military 
Mission [reconstituted first by General Bromilow and later, more 
fundamentally, by Major-General J. M. L. Renton] working in the 
Iraq Army, and a large number of individuals. The British Army 

1 1943. 

2 Teddy Hodgkin, Aidan Philip, Seton Lloyd and William Jones. 



by its correct attitude and the senior British officers by their friend- 
liness also helped/ This is a fair and true presentment. 

My Brotherhood belonged officially to the Embassy Publicity, but 
actually continued on its own lines as before, a little apart. It dealt 
with a tougher problem than Egypt had presented. The country was 
soaked in German doctrines; the Berlin radio blared from every 
coffee-house ; the army was surly over its defeat and none too pleased 
to discover that it had been effected with less than two British bat- 
talions ; and the worst of the Middle Eastern war was beginning. 
The German advance in Russia, the entry ofjapan, the fall of Singa- 
pore, Sebastopol and Tobruk lay ahead. The enemy plan of July 
that year foresaw a Panzer corps through Persia in the winter. Ten 
divisions would traverse Anatolia to Iraq. 1 It meant a lifting of the 
strain in the western desert, but the threat in the east was increased. 
Once through the Caucasus, it would take an army, I was told, not 
more than two days to come down from Azerbaijan over the passes. 
By the end of August, after a quick and bloodless advance into 
Persia, extremely modest preparations, consisting as far as the out- 
sider could see chiefly of British tank traps and latrine huts, began 
to mark the Iraqi border in the north. 

This atmosphere made great demands on * democrats* and few 
were prepared to label themselves as such. When I first returned, 
though the bazaars seemed unchanged in their dusty half-sunlight 
shadows, and the ramshackle amusing crowd was much the same, 
our soldiers were kept strictly in bounds and now and then sniped 
if they wandered beyond them. It was *a rather artificial calm' and 
when I gave my first party H.E. asked for a list of the guests in case 
of touching pitch. I sent it with a note to say that all were pure 
more or less, and the cloven hoof, if any, 'hidden in official 

By the end of the autumn, relations were mellowing in the 
extremely friendly atmosphere of the army which was moving 
everywhere. General Wavell came through. He sent his AJXC. 
for me in the midst of his conferences because, he told the Embassy, 
he had heard that I had seven new hats (and in the course of conver- 
sation remarked apropos of Syria that *we are always good friends 

1 Winston Churchill, The Grand Alliance. Ch. XXIX. 


with the French when we are enemies'). Johnnie Hawtrey, 1 who 
had trained the Iraqi Air Force and sent a message through one of his 
imprisoned airmen to congratulate them on their performance, went 
up to Mosul to treat for the surrender : he shook hands with his old 
colleagues as if nothing had intervened, which so disquieted them 
that they fled into Syria that night. Ladies whose husbands had 
murdered each other now began to drink their tea together at 
opposite ends of the table; and a new cabinet was formed like a 
mouse from the mountain with many labours. The Regent had 
grown a little fatter, still with the same gentle brown eyes and 
charming manners and the fine look of his family 'like portraits in 
old houses, almost too delicately bred'. The King was a litde boy of 
six who had just learnt to swim. 

By the end of October the Emir Abdullah came over from 
Transjordan and sat covered with decorations at the end of a long 
ballroom. At the banquet given for three Arab rulers together I 
was placed next the old Chief of the Senate who kept his end up 
in conversation by the simple expedient, when he reached the end 
of a story, of beginning again at the beginning in the same words, 
relying no doubt on a general female lack of Arabic to save himself 
the wear and tear of thought. 

I sympathized, for the whole of my work was talk and it some- 
times seemed endless : men in long gowns would be sitting in a row 
waiting for me before breakfast, and it went on all day with only 
a break for the sacred hour or two of the afternoon. 

The first difficulty had been to procure a house, without which 

could do no good, 'and have wasted a month of this precious 
summer for want of one/ I had hoped to find something on the 
river, to look out over people splashing or eating their water-melons 
in the shade, with the red furnace of the sunset across the wide water 
and the slim arch of lights over the bridge's shadow, and lighted 
candles floating downstream on Thursday evenings in honour of the 
Prophet Elias ; but the only house available there belonged to a man 

1 Air Vice-Marshal J. G. Hawtrey was Inspector of the Iraqi Air Force in 1940 and 
in 1942 was on the Air Staff in India. After distinguished service in Europe he be- 
came Senior Air Staff Officer at Headquarters Far East Air Force in 1951 and in 1952 
returned to Iraq as Air Officer Commanding, Iraq. He died in 1954. 


BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

whose brass plate said Father of Dust, Lawyer, and was as dilapidated 
as its name. Finally I secured one of the official bungalows in the 
suburb of Alwiyah. I could sleep out here in a garden and be 
wakened in the early morning by a chorale of small birds and by the 
sun before dawn beating on the underwings of doves. They flew 
all one way, to or from their morning drink, the shadow of their 
bodies against half a wing and the rest of them shining in the sky. 
Beneath them the dates hung like heavy udders round the palm 
stems columns in some temple of fertility rather than trees. And 
in the cooler mornings an old man would scythe the lawn and I 
could shut my eyes and smell it for a moment and think of England 
in June. 

Pam came over and did the buying for the house, so that we 
hoped to be 'less like a Chinese baby on a doorstep* in future. It 
was pretty three rooms opening one from the other, washed a 
faint pink with white furniture and striped curtains of white and 
pink and grey. Everything had to be bought and much was un- 

It is a fearful strain to get these things started [I wrote to my mother]. 

There are innumerable wheels and it is not one's own superiors but 
people running parallel departments who are apt not to see the necessity 
for one's existence. But I can't complain: I have such affection and help 
that it would be ungrateful indeed not to be thankful ... It is only myself I 
fed doubtful of I do so badly need a three months' holiday ! Telephon- 
ing alone takes an hour or more a day, and, of course, here it is mostly in 
Arabic which one has to do oneself. . . The polite exchange says 'Do not 
mention it, Madame', whenever I say thank you. 

I got one month's holiday, even in this tricky summer, and spent 
most of it in the solitudes of Carmel, in a Kurhaus among the pines : 

p September 

. . . you see nothing before you but the hill slopes and the sea: sometimes 
a white sail as lonely as life: but a party was sitting under a pine tree 
eating water-melon slices : black veils showed them Muslim, apart from 
their unprogressive way of spending the time. I was invited and sat 
with a slice of melon, and they told me they came twice or thrice 



a week to breathe the air and enjoy the sunset, just husband, wife and 
two daughters. They were so pleasant and restful among the money- 
grubbing of Haifa. 

This sanatorium is the last Jewish outpost: the hills and paths beyond 
it belong to Islam. One day I climbed to a headland of tillage and found a 
lovely girl in her best enormous full red bloomers and a flowering dress 
of magenta satinette with green braid round the skirt, and hands all 
hennaed for the holiday. She said, 'Come to the wedding', and led me 
along a path to a tiny cottage where the mother was kneading bread and 
eight or nine women danced to the piping of a youth with bleary eyes. 
They seized my hand and I was soon dancing in the circle, stamping and 
waving a handkerchief and saying hah to the beat of the music. They 
never asked who I was, but said I must not leave without eating and 
presently produced a plateful of excellent stew and bread and then a cup 
of water and set me on my way. 

There is one very nice German-Jewish doctor here, and he and his 
wife took me to one of the colonies on the foothills of Carmel, that have 
been there ten years and are self-supporting: already forests cover the 
slopes behind them and wheat fields lie on the ground below; and they 
have a finely built school and a little general garden. Each family has one 
room to itself, some in houses, but most in wooden shacks as they are 
poor and the money has to go largely in machinery. But they have 
good creches for the children, who are brought up by nurses and taken for 
two hours a day to their parents. The babies are kept very hygienically in 
pens surrounded by wire-netting against flies. They eat in common. 
Most come from Poland and they all look happy. Well, there it is ! 
There seems nothing to be said against it, but if I were there I should run 
off and live uncomfortably and unhygienically in a hovel with the 
resentful Arabs just outside. One can give no reason but I can't help 
wondering what Jesus meant when he rejected all the kingdoms : no 
doubt they included sanitation, and baby welfare and all, and his own 
carpenter's shop was a dingy old-fashioned affair. It is just that something 
else is also needed ! 

The shores of Galilee on my way were lovely in the quiet evening. 
They have still kept their ancient spell; and looking down from here is 
Athlit, the last port left to the Crusaders, its ruins moored to a hook of 
land that juts to a low bay. North is the bay of Acre, lovely in shape, 
and, far, far beyond, the cloudy vision of Hermon, its huge landscape now 
only attainable with a police pass beautifully solitary except for good- 
looking young men of the police patrols, all fit and bronzed. You come 


BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

upon them camped in olive groves, lodged in villages, running lonely 
posts in the hills, looking as if they were settled there for life, starting 
little gardens, perfectly self-composed and happy, and ready to run the 
country, any country, and all its inhabitants if asked to do so. All the 
Middle East is a huge armed zone; as Churchill has said so, the Censor 
can't mind my saying so too ! 

We drove here when Stewart came to visit me, after bathing in a soft 
seaweed bay where waves froth round one. How flattering it is for women 
to be compared to the sea. It may be changeable, but no one could get 
tired of its playing, every wave different from the kst. 

I returned to Baghdad with friends by a deserty five-day route 
along Euphrates through Latakia and Aleppo by Deir ez-Zor, in 
whose Beau Geste setting the Vichy aeroplanes were biting the sand 
of their airfield and cafe tables were set tinder riverside trees. Near- 
by are Justinian's fortresses whose angular enclosures the current 
washes, and the walls and gates, basilicas and cisterns of Resafa, once 
built of shining gypsum in the sun. The droves of gazelle leap 
round its solitude, as they did when the Palmyrene archers escorted 
the Roman or the Parthian caravans. Then as now, the battle line 
ran from Libya to Russia, linked by much the same roads, as fragile 
and as rare : and the army lorries of our day ever in sight between 
Baghdad and Transjordan were no doubt churning the forgotten 
Roman dust. A bedu in a yellow gown, "with a gun, came slinking 
among the ruins of Resafa and murmured in a soft voice that he 
belonged to the Children of the Wolf. "What do you know of all 
this ? " I asked him. We were in the nave of the church of St. Sergius, 
and he gave it a glance of indifference that might have belonged to 
Time itself. "You must know," he said. 

My house was painted by the end of October and life in Baghdad 
settled into a routine which for the next two years it was to follow. 
After changing residence eight times in twelve months, I hoped to 
be able to live in tolerable quiet, and felt that we had the winter 
before us to make the most o It was not long, but better than a 
matter of weeks only in which to get people fond of the British 
after the crisis of this year. 

Letters gave the day-to-day comments to my mother: on the 
Baghdad ladies, 'so ready to be friends, so gay and pleasant; and 


many have never been inside an English house,' or on the English 

by wbich when I say pale mauve the other fellow recognizes bright purple, 
and answers shell pink meaning scarlet: it takes years of a foreigner's life 
to know what we mean and then he rarely gets beyond the fact that it is 
something different from what we say. I think truth is more essential: 
it doesn't seem to me to be true modesty to say you are a poor tennis- 
player, when you know you are a good one ; the only mistake is to take it 
to be a matter of importance. 

An old Arab diplomat to whom I complained that the trains keep me 
awake said : C I should not mind that. It is the voice of civilization.' 

This morning a blue-eyed English bank clerk walked into the Chan- 
cery with a sad tale. As he was doing nothing much in Persia and as there 
were three other assistants, he asked to join the navy, and as he wasn't 
given leave just walked out, joined up in Basra, and was sailing for India 
when the authorities stopped him. It will be very unpopular if he is put 
in prison for wanting to fight ! 

The Americans are back from Moscow, hard put to it to stand up to 
the drinking : twenty-six vodka and red pepper mixed. . . . The Russians 
are giving away nothing : they say send them the stuff, they will attend to 
the using of it. Everyone is left with a high opinion of their soldiering. 

I lit a fire last night just to please Bish who came and dined and 
drank my best bottle of Syrian wine. I am his only solace (he says) so 
few women and the men all living under strain. I sometimes think it 
may be more helpful to listen to their innumerable troubles than to do my 

Am reading General Weygand's Life of Muhammed Ali. I knew how 
anti-British he the General was before Vichy even existed, but in this 
book he manages to describe the siege of Missolonghi without ever men- 
tioning Lord Byron. 

Under this temporary smoothness the violence of oriental life 
went on, nor could we forget it for long. In November Pam and I 
went to lunch at the Embassy where Fakhri Nashashibi, on a visit 
from Palestine, was invited. He was murdered as he stepped out of 
his hotel by a man on a bicycle who shot him and rode away. After 
half an hour's waiting, Vyvyan Holt came up to Lady Cornwallis 
quietly to say that the guest was not coming : it appears that after 


BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

twenty years of Iraq politics, when he heard the news over the tele- 
phone, he merely said : " I suppose we needn't wait lunch any longer." 

At the beginning of 1942 the desert, relieved by the pressure on 
Russia, sent cheerful messages. 

Tommy Elmhurst, writing in March far away on the pursuit of 
Rommel, described 'a day of battle, soldiers and sailors and airmen 
all fighting vigorously and I think successfully ' and the ' great feeling 
of seeing our own bombers and fighters overhead'. 

'For all its bleak and colourless character/ another friend wrote, 
'this country has its little consolations, such as owls which pop out 
of their holes and sit blinking but in no way disconcerted, or a herd 
of curlew (believe it or not this is the right term for curlew and 
applies also to swans and cranes, three such dissimilar birds ! rather 
odd !) making their plaintive call . . . Then a big bee will suddenly 
appear from nowhere and if one shuts one's eyes his buzzing brings 
back memories of English gardens on a summer's day . . . "Lying 
lazily, with eyes half shut, one sees as in a dream green boughs 
wavering or waters rippling in a golden light."* 

In Baghdad my private life had become singularly pleasant. The 
relief brought by my mother's safety made me happy; so did my 
house with three friends 1 to share it, a room for an office and a 
coming and going of Brethren all day long. Pam had been forced, 
by the birth of a son, to leave me, and Peggy Drower, an excellent 
helper, had come in her stead with a knowledge of Arabic and of 
the country as good if not better than mine. And as the eastern Arab 
front now had an H.Q. of its own in Iraq, friends were continually 
passing by to give us outer news. 

In the house we were ruled by Jasim, our Treasure, whose turban 
and black moustache were like my earliest imagining of the Arabian 
Nights. He steered us through small dramas the milk watered 
(according to him) by the ingenious invention of making the cow 
drink abundantly just before the milking ; or the laundry for which 
our neighbour Judge Pritchard (who had been angelically keeping 

^Hennione Ranfurly (then General *Jumbo* Wilson's P. A.), Barbara Graham 
(an assistant), Nigel Clive (in the British Embassy). 


Pam and me in his house while ours was finishing) paid less than he 
should 'because he is a judge'. He was no doubt unaware of his 
privilege, but Jasim interposed when I thought I could do the same. 
"With all of us busy, Jasim's rule was absolute and it was only by 
drawing my finger silently across the furniture to produce a dust 
mark that I would now and then gain a small temporary advantage 
out of his passionate pride in our house. 

It was a time full of strain and overwork for everybody, and in 
looking through my letters it seems extraordinary to find so many 
oases of calm. Walks when Vyvyan Holt . . . * chose the dreariest 
view where nothing but sand is visible while the gardens are all 
blossom. It is raining, and the green is rushing out, on the apricot 
boughs, in the willows, on the mulberries and in the grass : for a 
short week or two this ancient earth seems new. The little wild 
Kurdish iris are breaking along their stalks, one after the other like 
signal flags at a mast-head. When the lawn is being watered and 
reflects the trees it is like fairyland.' 

I rode with Stewart through Muaddham, a pleasant suburb north 
of Baghdad, old-fashioned with quiet streets and houses overhanging, 
with dusty carved windows bayed out to get the maximum view 
for the harim over the pontoon bridge, almost level because of 
the spring-rising Tigris past the golden minarets of Kadhimain 
along the river where fishermen sat beside round nets in huts made 
of palm fronds through aisles of palms and walled flowering 
orange-gardens, languorously scented out to tilled fields and veget- 
able patches from mud village to village, the track built high to 
dyke the river which shone ice-blue like a mirror in the spring lights 
of the day. Islands were appearing, where the tamarisk was breaking 
into pale feathery flowers, coral and white. 

Outings, too, with Nigel my lodger * young and English and 
happy to be here', reading Plato in a garden full of apple trees and 
pomegranates, where a boy showered us with rose-petals, cool 
and smooth like hands under water. In the evening we rode back 
down the right bank to Baghdad, meeting the old horse-tram that 
trundled on rails, an antediluvian sight, packed two storeys high 
with women and police and peasants, turbans, sidaras and gowns, 
the craziest tram in creation. 


BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

As die days grew hotter we would drive out on a Sunday after- 
noon in a molten world and find the river among crocodile snouts 
of mud and thin lines of palms pressed between sky and water. New 
islands appeared week by week under jade-pale bushes and coarse 
grasses spiked like helmets ; doves and rollers, bee-eaters, magpies and 
kingfishers were at home there, and melon plants were grown in 
pot-holes before another flood. The peasants walked barefoot, with 
hollow, sallow faces, very poor. Sometimes we would turn in- 
land, across the Diyala River where the Lancaster Regiment held 
in 1917 * against overwhelming odds 5 too familiar phrase by 
strips of deserty steppe with flocks, shreds of oases in walled gardens, 
huts of the Jibur ; till the road ended in a mud patch and the few 
tribesmen smoothed a way to a picnic place among ears of corn and 
roots of clover. One of them had a fair moustache and I asked how 
he got it. "My mother was with the English," he said. 

It was 'boiling hot' by May, but the house was cool. The fan 
revolved gently, the windows were shut by eight-thirty till six or 
so when all was thrown open. 

How lucky we are [I wrote] with fans and baths and frigidaires and 
servants, and a pretty house ! One has no idea how long such things will 
last, but it makes them the more valuable. I have about six pieces of 
French soap left and enjoy it every time I take a bath. What I am pleased 
about, too, is that I am living entirely on my earnings. 

My letters are filled with a kaleidoscope of people even more 
varied than Egypt, for by now the Middle East was like a broken 
sea with waves of refugees in every direction and every sort of 
military cross-current as well. 

A pathetic visit from a Jew pedlar with a pack of silks to sell for other 
merchants ; all his house and shop looted in May, so he begins the world 
again the indomitable, impressive side of the Jew. 

Did I tell you that the black-out here had to be stopped because every- 
one knifed everyone else in the dark ? The papers said it had been such a 
success there was no need to continue. One is always on a thin crust the 
most ordinary Iraqi ladies riding ten days in disguise to join their husbands 
in Cairo through the English lines. 

BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

A young airman rang up to say, * Could a Persian lady who longs to 
meet you pay a call ? She has been 'in jail six years.' This peculiar intro- 
duction brought a charming couple, the daughter of the famous Taimur- 
tash who made the ex-Shah and died in prison for his pains, and now she 
and her husband are full of the wish to see their country strong and inde- 
pendent and who, I wonder, is going to help ? It is a great mistake to be a 
small nation today. 

What strange lives one comes across ! I went to a Czech oculist 
quite an elderly man, and he has lived here eleven years in an Arab house, 
clean and cool, in one of the back streets of the town, with a young 
Baghdad wife and two small children. He has two grown sons in Prague 
and no news of them, and he makes his living among the Arabs. A 
woman from Riga does one's nails, a blonde good-natured, plain, 
healthy Frau, also here eleven years with husband employed in a soap 
factory. A Hungarian does one's face, she came on a visit to a sister who 
married an Iraqi, and got caught in the war. There are a few Poles, and a 
Czecho-Hungarian-Rumanian played the 'Appassionata' to the troops. 
Lovely it was to hear something so beautiful! He played Chopin. I 
wondered what the listeners were thinking, so far from their homes. 
They live in camps among the dust-storms full in summer heat when it 
comes and one has such a time driving one's little car in and out of their 
convoys and lorries. They sing 'Land of Hope and Glory' with gusto in 
church notwithstanding the fall of Singapore ! 

Our prospects with the Brotherhood did not seem to me less 
hopeful than Egypt had been the year before, in spite of the bad 
start. Countries used to absolute rule are chary of voicing their 
opinions, and there was more friendship for us perhaps than we 
imagined, Johnnie Hawtrey remarking to his ex-pupils how poor 
their artillery had been against Habbaniya (which they could easily 
have destroyed), they always retorted tKat, on the contrary, their 
aim had been extremely good; not many of them had wished to 
destroy us; and this double current through the country (which 
probably still exists) was a factor of great though unassessed im- 
portance throughout the revolt. 1 

But now a gloomy spring opened and the Baghdad peace blos- 

1 It is my opinion that General WavelTs underestimating of our chances in Iraq 
was due to the fact that he did not, and probably could not, know the strength of this 
friendly feeling at the time. 


BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

somed as it were in the heart of a tornado. Burma and Malaya and 
the Farouk crisis in Cairo were leading towards the fall of Tobruk in 
June, and Iraq was as fidgety as a frightened horse. Her recent defeat 
kept her quiet and troops continually moving up and down to 
Persia, becoming popular, acted both as a deterrent and a balm. 
Women told me how surprised and pleased they were to find they 
could go, even to a cinema, among the armies, and luckily when 
Singapore was threatened our Brotherhood no longer waited for 
( guidance* which always came too late, but we prepared our people 
a month before it fell. Even so, most were too frightened to commit 
themselves until the news improved. 

You can't think, [I wrote 4.3.42] how beastly it is to be a propa- 
gandist just now. One's resource has to be endless, one's courage flawless, 
one's patience inexhaustible. The Brothers here are also a little dashed 
because two members were put in prison: however, as we undeservedly 
got blamed for their going in, we are now undeservedly enjoying the 
credit for their coining out. It is wearing, too, to be always ready to pack 
up with nowhere to go ; but nothing matters so long as the Russians in 
the Crimea keep that vital wing of our huge front. 

By the 2pth of March : 'Here we still are : the Iraqis jittery and all 
of us wondering when the spring offensive starts. Hitler must make 
for oil or die. Meanwhile they are trying the rebels of last May and 
one hopes this state of uncertainty may soon be over. I can't help 
feeling it is a pity they ever arrived in Iraq: so many things could 
happen to people at sea/ Poor George Antonius, a gentle frustrated 
man and my friend, was dying too, and soon lay in Jerusalem in an 
open coffin, his face slightly made up, in a brown pin-stripe suit, 
defeating the majesty of death. And the spring went on with in- 
creasing strain, when an early night and eight hours' sleep seemed a 
boon. Peggy was splendid and my other assistant, not cut out for 
propaganda, was 'slowly waking to the fact that women must 
either work or weep unless they are very beautiful*. The Iraqis, 
corrupted by politics, seemed to think of friendliness as intended to 
snatch some non-existent benefit from them. 'The older ones 
know our strength and value us, and the young are difficult as can be/ 

It was the young that mattered. 



Adrian Bishop and I had written a report during the leisure of the 
siege on this * growing force hitherto neglected, which we believe 
will soon be of paramount importance* and on the main problem 
. . . * to rally the forces of nationalism to our side/ Any other success, 
we thought, was secondary, *a mere dabbling in backwaters when 
our necessity is to regulate the main current of the stream. Because 
we have no territorial needs in Arab lands, because our interests rim 
parallel and not against the interests of the Arabs, there is no reason 
why national and pro-British feeling should not be united. Our aim 
should be to make nationalism friendly/ To do so we must gain to 
our side the army; the disbanded officers and men who might be a 
source of trouble; education; and the young educated population of 
the towns. 

'We feel/ we also said, 'that it cannot be too clearly stated nor too 
often repeated that there is only one problem at the root of all our 
relations with the Arab world: this is the absence of any clear 
statement from His Majesty's Government of their intentions to- 
wards Arab nationalism, the future of Syria and Arab confederation, 
and the still unresolved problem of Palestine. The fact that this has 
been said ad infinitum must not be taken to lessen in any degree its 
primary importance and its essential truth ; without such a statement 
the plans suggested cannot be expected to lead to satisfactory results/ 

*You will see,' I wrote some months later to Mr. Casey, 1 'that 
our general purpose goes very parallel to that of the British Insti- 
tutes with one big difference, and that is that we try to keep it as 
non-British as possible, basing ourselves on a purely democratic pro- 
paganda: in Egypt there are not half a dozen British in the whole 
show, and in Iraq it is the same. This is because the people we want 
are the young ones who have been, or are, or might become at any 
moment, ardently nationalist, and the object to combine their 
nationalist feelings with a friendly bias ... is devoted to a time when 
we may have to do without political officers and almost certainly 
armies, when even the British Institutes may sound too foreign in 
the ears of Eastern governments, and when an Iraqi, Egyptian, or 
Persian organization may be our only means of influencing the 

1 Rt. Hon. R. G. Casey, P.C., C.H., D.S.O., M.C. (now Lord Casey) at that time 
Minister of State resident in the Middle East and a member of the War Cabinet. 



population in general. It seems to me that some such system of 
insurance is very necessary and should be started while we are in 
control of the field/ 

By the middle of June we had fourteen committees of Brethren 
and one hundred and fifty members. 

The summer was hotter than usual for Baghdad. It rose to 127 
in the shade. Even the nights were hot and infested by sandflies, and 
everyone looked thin and pale and most people were cross. All of 
this was twice as unbearable when the news was bad. 

Poor Nigel is getting so thin, I am worried about him. I am all right, 
but incapable of doing a heavy day's work. However, I had two long 
committees and the Iraqi Military Chief to lunch yesterday. "We are 
trying to get them to help us by allowing committees in the army, and it 
is all most delicate. I hope I have succeeded : I invited the Xs I like the 
wife and she is very good to us ; but neither Stewart nor Nigel could bear 
to look at her because they said she reminded them of a second-rate 
procureuse in Paris ! It shows what a pity it is to know second-rate pro- 
cureuses, if it spoils you for quite respectable army wives in Iraq ! The poor 
woman sat between two averted men all through lunch. The news is as 
bad as can be and it is a miserable job going round explaining to frightened 
or secretly rejoicing people that all is well. I had sixty to my party yester- 
day but hardly any Iraq army put in an appearance : the Nazis there are 
furious with our gatherings and have been going round sabotaging them. 
If we get better news this will not matter. 

My new committee consisted of twelve officers. Nobody had 
really got at the army so far, and it was largely Nazi at heart, so I was 
anxious about this entrie and distressed to find my chief partisan 
being sent off with the rest of the troops to the north. With some 
trouble I got him let off for a month ; * whether it is worth doing is 
another matter, but it is rather necessary just now. He was difficult 
to recommend as he interviewed his general and threatened in his 
ardour to commit suicide if not allowed to stay attending to de- 
mocracy in Baghdad. He said to me : '* I know how to deal with the 
army : one bottle of beer and it is finished they are democrats." It 
was the best we could do to begin with. 

By the end of the year forty officers had joined us, though the 


army was still largely Nazi in sympathy and our groups had to face 
a possible loss of promotion. They showed a falling off during the 
summer (after the fall of Tobruk), but were rallying well even be- 
fore the news of victories in Egypt. We had a certain amount of 
natural opposition from the top chiefly due to a misunderstanding 
as to the nature of the Brothers they were no more a political party 
than a union to defend 'King and Country' would be in England; 
but the Iraqi generals (whose wives were in our committees) accepted 
us, and a benevolent neutrality was promised by the heads of the 
British Mission. Our penetration, however, remained very slow and 
the army was, of all in Iraq, the least influenced by our efforts. 

By the end of June we were pulling ourselves together after the 
bombshell of Tobruk. 1 Against most of my committee members I 
insisted, by some intuition like that for Singapore, on forecasting its 
loss a week before it happened, and this chance shot had a remark- 
ably steadying effect. It was always better, I found, to be on the 
pessimistic side and then, if nothing happened (as in the case of Malta 
whose fall we were prepared for) the better news had the effect of 
a victory, and if the catastrophe occurred our people were fore- 
warned. Meanwhile there was a mixture of panic among friends 
and silence, in our presence, among the fifth column. 

Only one of all our ladies took the trouble to ring me up with a 
friendly message. Oh well, it is not a pleasant month for die propagandist. 
I do what I can and go out to about five different salons a day and notice 
people are the better for being talked to. 'Keep calm and carry on' is all 
one can do. If we had had five years instead of six months we might have 
had a more solid body in Iraq to rely on; as it is, I am always surprised at 
the number who believe in us rather than at their scarcity. 

My week has been full of committees and I have little energy left for 
anything else. The thermometer has touched 122 in the shade and the sheets 
are like ovens when you lie down on them. Hospitals are full of heat- 
stroke and the thought that leave will be cancelled is almost as grim as 
anything else. One has to be awfully careful about little things, servants* 
tempers, etc., as everything is very explosive this weather and of course 
very precarious with an offensive beating at both front door and back. 
We say that all has to be subordinated to help Russia (including the heavy 

1 It fell on the 20th. 



tanks which, might, and indeed would, have saved Libya) but that is a 
poor sort of argument to those who are likely to be among the sacrificed ! 
My one personal happiness is that you are out of it all, and in such a dear 
and happy home. I bless Lucy and John for it every day. The Govern- 
ment has bought my car, so I am rich to the extent of ^500, and will 
try and send some, but may not be authorized to do so. If I leave I shall 
trust all papers etc. to Hamid. 

By July the country was seething with disguised Nazis and 
swastikas were appearing everywhere even on the back of my car. 
The Jews were doing us almost more harm than the enemy, afraid 
not so much of the Germans as of the Iraqis. 

5 July 1942 

And all the time one has a feeling that the fate of the East for the im- 
mediate future, perhaps for centuries, is being settled on that strip of 
western sand beyond the Bramley's house where one has spent so many 
happy hours. They are fighting there now. It is so hot that if one leaves 
the car ten minutes in the sun one can't touch the steering-wheel without 
gloves : a tank must be appalling. Poor boys, they come out of these tank 
battles looking almost distraught. Among all the depressing venality of 
the Iraqi friendship a few bright spots stand out. Twenty young 
mechanics came to enrol in our forces, saying, * it is a time for deeds and 
not words/ Our committees do not fall off: we have about two hundred 
and fifty members oh well. Nigel is wilting away; I am so worried 
about him I don't know what to do. Bish is just down from the north 
where he says all sorts of ugly things are rearing their heads ; he embraced 
me and said : *How far this little Scandal throws its beams/ He was most 
pleasant to see in this town of ragged nerves. In spite of all, my conviction 
is that the feeling is genuinely much better than last year ! Peggy is very 
good indeed, and we begin to see results some a little disconcerting, as 
when a rumour that the Allies had landed at Dakar flew like lightning 
round the suq and we traced it to a zealous Brother ; he said he thought the 
people needed a tonic and so invented it, and sent the price of gold down 
by 4/- in one day. 

By the I2th July things were better. 

A fortnight ago I wondered if we would still be here or at any rate if 
Cairo would still be there : and now we are less anxious on that side and 

K [133] 


looking with more anxiety to Russia. As we are just in the middle of the 
pincers, we are equally interested in either end ! Meanwhile the summer is 
slowly passing and the rainy season not more than three months away in 
the north, 

I have now got about thirty army officers in my committees and it is a 
toss-up whether I shall succeed or whether the Nazi sabotage will be too 
strong. They are being very active against us, which is the greatest com- 
pliment to our success. I had six young officers at my own committee 
yesterday, all making suggestions and very keen, and we are now trying 
to get Allied cinemas into their camps, hitherto a closed ground to all 
except the swastika. 

Nigel is having a lovely birthday cake with icing, twenty-five candles, 
two bottles of champagne, and a dinner-party for his friends. 

By the end of July the worst of the news seemed over. I asked 
H.E. if he would rather give me two months' leave or have me in 
hospital, and made for Cyprus as the nearest place where no Arabic 
conversation could take place. 

On my way through Palestine I met Christopher Scaife and heard 
the Cairo details of the 'black day' when Rommel came so near, 
and the Embassy burnt its archives. Many were ordered to leave, 
and practically all the members of the Minister of State's Department 
were evacuated to Palestine. 

The Egyptian branch of the Brotherhood was attached to that 
department but as our chief object was to maintain morale, and as 
the departure of Christopher and Ronnie Fay would have destroyed 
the faith of our thousands of members and made them think them- 
selves abandoned on the approach of this first real crisis, it was 
arranged that they should be allowed to remain tinder the aegis of 
the Embassy. By constant visits to committees in Cairo and Alex- 
andria where we had about three thousand Brethren they were 
able to maintain confidence while the battle wore itself away on the 
outskirts of Egypt. Races went on and cinemas remained open, and 
the Brotherhood, too, came through with satisfaction to its god- 
parents and credit to itself. 

BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

Christopher's next ordeal was to see me through my accounts a 
large document had come allowing a little more money but all under 
different heads. To put ^4,000 a year into its proper place drove 
me nearly mad, and there still seems to me no sense in not buying a 
typewriter with a surplus from telephones (when, as I explained to 
Christopher, like Macedon and Monmouth they both begin with 
a T). The figures, shy as animals, fled in and out of their elusive 
columns, and only after hours of misery I discovered that I had 
been counting the date of the year as a sum either received or ex- 
pended a dealing with Time which wrecks any arithmetic, how- 
ever philosophically true. At the bottom of the document I was 
amused to read that they had considered reducing my salary 'on 
account of sex differentiation' but had desisted at Owen Tweedy 's 
suggestion. I would have resigned. As for the accounts, kind Mr. 
Das in the Baghdad Secretariat now added them to the other troubles 
in his charge. 

Christopher had much from his Baghdad branch to put up with, 
run as it now was on uncompromisingly female lines. 'Eve and ser- 
pent that you are,' he wrote, 'how often have I said to you, dear 
Freya, that a woman has powers of opening the dossiers of diplomats, 
the files of field officers, and the codes of commodores, which are 
totally denied to a conscientious man. When you ask for a tyre 
from army stores it is the appeal of a damsel in distress ; when I do 
it, it is a nasty grafter's racket. But this doesn't diminish my joy at 
the news that you have been able to get some' and that of course 
not being a conscientious man seemed to me the main objective. 
Dear Christopher, I always wonder why it should be derogatory 
to behave like a woman when one is one. 

I was now free for two months. I drove along the coast to Haifa 
by clear little bays and along the Samarian highlands ; saw again the 
vivid ridges of Jerusalem bathed in air, the country white at heart 
through the crust, green or brown, of its seasons, the city weathered 
to the hills on which it lies. I was depressed by Beirut, in spite of 
the kindness of the Spears 1 and their staffnearly all old friends. 

1 Major-General Sir Edward and Lady Spears. He was head of the Spears Mission 
in Syria and the Lebanon and later, in 1942, our Minister to the Republics of Syria 
and the Lebanon, 

BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

The hilly places were alight rather strangely, with the black- 
out in Palestine and Joan and Aly Khan carried me off to dance in 
the mountain coolness: but ' those pathetic displays of porcelain 
vases or stamp collections in shops where everything one needs is 
missing, that touch of French mode through which the natural 
coarseness of the Levant has no difficulty in appearing, the visible 
men so few and their wives and sisters cheering the boredom of the 
armies at little tables all about the town so many' 1 I was glad to get 
away to Cyprus by the kindness of the Navy, in a Greek corvette 
that had sailed out of Singapore the day before it fell. 

Cyprus was full of troops in expectation of a second Crete. 
English women were nearly all evacuated a discrimination inside 
the boundaries of empire which naturally did us no good with the 
Cypriots, but spread a beautiful solitude and peace over the island. 
Flat places were dotted with small earth cones, like nails on the soles 
of mountain boots, to deter airborne landings, and a fierce con- 
troversy raged as to whether they did not make things too easy for 
the enemy when once die landing had taken place. In this dilemma 
some ground was fortified and some not, and paratroop invaders 
could shelter behind the cones after landing on the open ground 
beside them; our fair-minded loss of the advantages of both sides 
seemed secure. 

I had had to promise the tired Navy that under no circumstances 
would I ask to be evacuated, and now, after safe arrival, I convalesced 
beside water so limpid, so transparent, so green near shore and 
variegated like the leaves of those hothouse plants with such pat- 
terns of sunlight on its submerged sands that the sight of it alone 
made one forget all trouble. 

The land stretched outer arms of hills with a foreground of orange 
groves and windmills ; the old Famagusta in its walls was inhabited 
in a decaying way by Turks whose mosque was the cathedral of the 
Crusaders the name of Allah was suspended on its piers. The 
eastern promontory kicked a tiny subsidiary island out into a sea 
fantastically blue, where bays were cut hard with dazzling beaches, 
and myrtle shot upright from the ground like candelabra, and vil- 
lages were separated from each other by ridges of small juniper and 

1 Letter 5.8.42. 



pine. The animals were sleek and the trees well looked after in con- 
trast to the rest of the Levant; the people's looks seemed to have a 
keenness of Europe; El Kantara from a backbone ridge held the 
double seas in sight. All looked its best in the liquid bath of the sun. 
There was a festa in the castle village children playing at garrison 
with spears of reed, and grizzled men in rough boots and baggy 
trousers dancing with rapt concentration to the music of two violins. 
Salamis, the ancient city, lay destroyed below in woodlands of 
fennel and mimosa. 

From Famagusta a train jerked across the landscape, full of sheep 
and priests and peasants, to Nicosia and a few days' ease in a Govern- 
ment House so permeated by arts and crafts of the island that even 
the drawing-room curtains were cross-stitched with Crusader pat- 
terns. TheWoolleys, 1 who were governing, were hospitable and 
kind, but what I needed was solitude; Mr. Davies of the British 
Council offered it with the loan of a cottage facing the western up- 
lands : Prodromos, a peaceful natural village lay below, and ranges 
and clouds and a gulf, where the sunset dropped, were beyond it. 
Vines grew round the house, and pinewoods and browsing goats 
climbed to a minor Olympus. Bracken and arbutus flourished here, 
evergreen oak with little undergrowth, and whiffs of sun-heated 
sage and thyme in the open spaces. There were only about four 
hundred people in the village, and a big hotel which was closed, 
built by Sir Ronald Storr's inspiration on the model of a Crusader 
castle a poor pattern for hotels by an architect who was a 
mining engineer evidently intended by providence for a life under- 
ground, for he had turned it away from the finest view in Cyprus* 
North down the valley was the next village called Pedhoules, with 
a fifteenth-century chapel tinder a pointed roof, and frescoes sus- 
tained on dull-painted columns, pleasant and neglected. The women 
wove carpets, and recognized the subtleties of pottery, linen or 
weaving they had a feeling for the beauty of everyday things, 
coming down perhaps from Neolithic times. 

Except for Sim Feversham, 2 who was stationed near Nicosia and 
gave me the experience of a ride in one of his Crusader tanks and 

1 Sir Charles and Lady Woolley. 

2 The Earl of Feversham, then in the Yorkshire Hussars. 


BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

drove me down to Paphos, and Jock Jardine 1 in Famagusta, who 
came once to camp for a week-end in the cottage's other room, 
I spent a month of solitude. The river of the sun slept on the pine- 
needled slopes. Only once did I drive down the valley, and that 
was with JJ. to the palace of Vouni, that overlooks, as if it were an 
amphitheatre, the bay of Morphou from a flat-topped hill. Built 
two and a half thousand years ago, it still watches the marbled sea 
between its rows of columns and keeps its ease of space and leisure, 
and sees the coasts melt like silver into the burning furnace of the 
blue. In the sunset I returned alone to my alpine air and the outlines 
of woods far below against the dipping shoulders of the west. The 
bracken tips were turning brown with autumn; red hips were on 
the dog-rose and yellowing boughs in the plane trees ; and the saw- 
edged leaves of the arbutus hung silvery against the dark ravines. 
I did nothing but walk all day or stitch at my embroidery, until I 
felt able to read, and then to write in a sort of urgency and at 
Sydney CockerelTs request the rough draft of Travellers Pre- 
lude which I felt destiny might never let me finish. I had arranged 
for any bad Egyptian news to reach me, for 'the plans even for the 
next week-end depend upon the battle : one has come to take it as 
a matter of course' ; and I wanted to reach Baghdad in case of a 
retreat. 'Did I tell you,' I wrote to my mother, 'that Goebbels 
refers to this peaceful island as a self-supporting prison camp ?' 

The Ministry of Information at this time wished to send me to the 
U.S.A. to counteract Zionist propaganda, which was producing 
anti-British feeling to an alarming degree. With the thought of my 
mother it was hard to refuse, but it would have meant the end of 
all the work in Iraq and there was no fair choice. 'I hope for your 
sake,* Peggy wrote, 'that it will only be postponed. We were glad 
you refused to go now indeed we believed that would be your 
answer/ The delay was only of one year, and had I gone it would 
have been too late, for my mother died peacefully in November, 
three weeks after my return to Baghdad. Adrian Bishop, too, the 
dearest, gayest and deepest of friends there, was killed by an acci- 
dental fall into the well of an uneven stair in a Teheran hotel; and 

1 Then British Council representative in Cyprus. 


Para's husband, Pat, was missing. A few months later General 
'Jumbo* wrote that he had. been shot in the lung and died in 
hospital in Misurata, 'a great character and one of the bravest of 

These were private sorrows. Apart from them, the autumn did 
well, and our Brotherhood was achieving its first seven hundred 
members, 'as much as could be expected after a summer of per- 
sistently bad news.' The unexpected effect of the good news when 
it came was that apart from bringing in a certain amount of dross 
among our purer metals it inclined the Brothers to sit back and 
renounce all further effort. We therefore now began to switch from 
war to peace, hoping to prepare a body of democratic opinion for 
later times with the help of the more educated young people. By 
December 1942 I was expecting an increase of about ten thousand 
members in the coming year. 

When once this has been attained [I "wrote to Cairo] , I think there will 
be no further difficulty in expanding to any number required. Probably 
however there is an optimum beyond which it would be unadvisable to 
go. Ten thousand represents a little less than one per cent of the total male 
adult population of Iraq: it is the equivalent of about thirty thousand in 
Egypt. A much smaller number would not be sufficiently strong to 
influence public opinion : a much larger would perhaps become difficult 
to manage, and 'would lose the drive and cohesion of a minority"; it is, in 
fact, preferable to be the leaven rather than the lump. When we have 
produced this band of friendly democrats we shall have fulfilled our war- 
tune task. We shall have fashioned a powerful instrument which is not 
British and can therefore continue without offence under non-British 
governments. Its fundamental principle is that it is not based on bribery 
of any kind, but is intended to be beneficial and to obtain co-operation by 
persuading that it is so. This and the treatmeat of the idea of democracy 
and freedom as an essentially religious idea explain, I believe, its com- 
parative success in a most difficult year. 

I am personally convinced that a minimum of twelve carefully 
selected people can maintain a friendly state of opinion in Iraq. They 
would be sufficient to prevent a relapse into the conditions of 1939, and 
they would enable H.M.G. to economise on more expensive and less 
disinterested forms of persuasion. The whole success depends on the 
quality and devotion of the people selected. 



This scheme could, I hoped, be enlarged to embrace the whole 
Middle East and forestall in some degree the totalitarian menace of 
the future. As early as the 26th of January, 1942, 1 had written in a 
letter to Cairo that 'Russia will be tremendously strong at the end 
of the war ; it is more important than ever to have a reliable block of 
the Arab world/ 

The Brotherhood did its wartime service but foundered in the 
peace, and the reason for its failure was no fault of the people who 
came after us, but rather an inherent weakness of our position in the 
Arab world as soon as the war ended. I was and am convinced as 
I have tried to explain that the benefit to the listener and the belief of 
the gospeller in his own gospel are two out of the three essentials of 
persuasion : Anglo- Arab relations were deprived of both these funda- 
mentals by the problem of Israel, and without them we had no per- 
manent chance of success. We succeeded during the war because in 
that interval the problem was shelved. After the war, in the height 
of our prestige, we had a chance to produce education to influence, 
not the young men of 1945 but those now grown up in 1960 : but 
we left Egypt and not ourselves to take that opportunity. These 
two failures are quite sufficient to explain our situation today, with- 
out any other addition whatsoever. 

A point on which I am anxious to defend my Brotherhood is the 
suggestion that they encouraged, if they did not cause, the nation- 
alism which Europe already looks upon, and Asia soon will, as a 
disease. This is a silly accusation and would not be worth refuting 
if it had not been believed, even during the war. Its cause lies deep 
in that ostrich sentiment which makes an Englishman hope that an 
tmpleasant object ceases to exist if he can avoid seeing it. 'Nation- 
alism', long before the war, was as obvious as any thunderstorm on 
the horizon. The only possible choice was whether to have it with 
u$ or against us* If we had been able to keep it with us, the history 
of&e Arab countries, of Iraq in particular, might have been different 

ttkk of these things now without grave sorrow because 


whatever the faults of the peoples of Asia we too, I feel, have 
failed them. Freedom and independence is what they asked for, 
but the point is that when the child asks for a stone one does not 
give it a stone, one manages to give bread notwithstanding. They 
asked for freedom, but with it they needed experience and help, 
and to wash our hands and give freedom alone was not enough. 
Management they disliked, but without counsel they were lost. We 
understood this more than many other nations and often succeeded, 
but in the Arab world, by a very small margin, we felled. That the 
chief reason for this failure centred on Israel and our, and then the 
U.S.A.'s, handling of it, no one really familiar with the Middle East 
in those years would I think deny. 

Yet during the war we succeeded and it was no small achievement, 
and in Iraq it was chiefly due to Sir Kinahan's wise and sensitive 
steering, wooing the country back to security and rest. Nor should 
we forget the Iraqi statesmen themselves now pushed aside or mur- 
dered and chief among them Nuri as-Said Pasha, the only great 
man of the Middle East in all those years. From the time of his youth 
in the Arab Movement his life was spent in the gradual construction 
of an Arab world as united as circumstances allowed. Policy is the 
art of the possible, and he moved within those limits. He will be 
recognized, even by his own people, when histories are written 
and these storms are over. To me, for more than a generation* he 
was a friend. I saw him last the year before his murder, in Baghdad, 
and asked about the future of Iraq. "It will be safe," he said, "if we 
can keep it quiet for ten years and let the middle class dig itself in. 
But can we?" He laughed. He had a young laugh with a sudden 
glance of blue eyes that usually seemed to sleep under tired pockets 
of darkened skin and eyelid. With his slight figure and the boyish 
charm that never left him he was yet an old and fragile man, and 
Kassem need have waited only a year or two for all he wanted. 1 

1 Many rumours were current as to the manner of Nurfs death. Lord Birdwood 
(Nuri as-Said, p. 267) says little but is as accurate as possible, while James Morris in 
his brilliant but rather heartless sketch, The Hashemites, is not very informed. Iraqi 
sources which seemed to me reliable said that Nuri tried his telephone on this black 
morning, and found it cut : -immediately smpidotis, he made his way to a friend's 
house on the river bank below and found that telephone also cut. They put two and 
two together and went upstream to Mu'addham to friends who for some reason were 



To describe the recent Iraqi revolution as a conflict of the new and 
the old is, I think, accurate only in part. English accounts have 
mosdy been written by people unversed in the Mesopotamian back- 
ground who do not see under the modern catchwords that 
pendulum-swing of murder, ancient and long familiar, which has 
made the pattern from the day when the first Ali was stabbed in 
Cufa and probably long before. Even the massacre of the Prophet's 
family is no novelty on that soil. How much of this story was 
private revenge I suppose no one will ever know. 

During my last visit, in 1957, so many years later, I saw the young 
King. He was very gentle, dignified and small, standing by a vast 
desk among the shadows of his room and the greater shadows of his 
long history, *the future stirring with such dim uncertain forces/ 
I wrote with some strange foreboding. He had kept the gentleness of 
manner of all the Hashemites, and a charming trustfulness in the 
kindness of his world; and as we spoke of his country how to make 
it one land for peasant and effendi it was like watering thirsty 
ground, he was so anxious to learn and do. Many centuries of 
tradition had gone to his making, of which I had known the last 
three generations, and thought of them as I came away: his grand- 

unable to shelter the Pasha for long. He then drove, with a woman's black cloak as 
disguise and still with his friends, to another house in the Sa'dun quarter (on the left 
bank), where also there was no hiding place for him. They decided to try another 
friend, returned to the waiting car or taxi, and found the usual small group of 
loungers with a few children collected. In the maze of the new suburban streets and 
the usual Baghdad absence of addresses, they had to ask the way. By this time the 
wireless was blaring out advertisement and incitement against Nuri. In his impatience 
he broke into the discussion with a question, and a child said "but that is a man's 
voice, not a woman's". Whether Nuri shot first or a soldier who happened to be 
there, I did not hear. 

The account of his burial I heard from Pat Domvile who was in a house opposite 
the North Gate cemetery and saw it. In the dusk after the curfew, with no one about, 
the new government sent his body to be put quietly but decently in the ground. 
Next morning, just before dawn, Pat was awakened by a noise and saw about forty 
men, most of whom he knew. They were practically all, he told me, connected with 
Rashid Ali and *The Golden Square*. They dug up fourteen bodies in the cemetery 
before coming upon what they wanted (and this incidentally suggests that there 
was no collusion with the people who had buried Nuri the night before). "When 
they at last found him, they threw him on to the road, made the passing cars drive 
over him, and treated the poor dead body with all the savagery for which Iraq in her 
long history has ever been notorious. 



mother's exquisite Arabic, her erect little figure wrapped in an 
ermine stole in the serai palace now abandoned; and the other one 
in King Ali's house on the river, where the children played in house 
or garden and practically never came out at all and a huge eunuch 
kept the key; and then the gentle, good mother, widow of King 
Ghazi, in her new palace near the Damascus road, where she could 
walk about freely and in a room clustered with silver mosques in 
glass cases and orange trees worked with gold fruit in filigree silver 
the little boy would come with the same gravity and beautiful 
manners to greet the guests. 

It is a long way from 1941, though the tragic end is never quite 
out of sight in Iraq. Methods which have sprouted under Kassem 
were there in the I94o's, and many young people who joined us 
soon left us, because at all costs we kept them from violence. * Build, 
and let the abuses die in their own time and of their own accord/ 
Hours and days were spent on this theme, and the endless repetition 
lost us many adherents, though it kept out of prison such as remained. 

In a country like Iraq there were many difficulties tribes and 
townsmen whom one had never thought of as coming together, and 
the schism of Sunna and Shi'a, as well as minorities Kurd, Christian, 
Jew, Yezidi explosive nerve centres we tried to irritate as little as 
we could. As in Egypt, we went through anxious months with our 
own side, walking on a knife-edge while our numbers grew to such 
a level as would make them more difficult to disband than to keep on. 
"What saw us through was the enthusiasm of Iraqi friends, the friend- 
liness of the English Political Officers whether they believed or not, 
the willing ardour of our litde office, which really has the credit of 
the toil, and above all the feet that what we were saying to the people 
of Iraq was genuinely in their own interest. In the years after the 
war the stream of such intercourse dwindled, 'If Nuri could have 
made fuller use of his publicity/ Lord Birdwood writes, 'he could 
have had the public behind him/ 1 I believe this to be true. 

By the summer of 1942 we had visited every group of any size 
in the whole country. "We had jolted in a most uncertain car over 
the sandy levels, ending the day in some town where a canal wanders 
through the High Street and the gardens are packed behind blind 

1 N&ri e&-Sw& by Lord Birdwood, p. 277. 


mud walls. There, round three sides of a crowded room, coffee was 
drunk, and tea in little glasses ; the governors, doctors, judges, school 
inspectors, sat at the upper end; speeches were made and poems 
recited. Sometimes, when the war news became no longer a deter- 
rent, people got in whose motives were not so pure ; but mostly we 
came into a gentle atmosphere, a great and untutored anxiety to do 
well. I made my speech in Arabic, taking whatever point seemed 
most appropriate to prepare a body of decently disinterested public 
opinion for the days of peace. I explained how it had been done in 
England, in Anglo-Saxon villages centuries ago, through small 
groups such as these: how they had grown to send their delegates 
to London, and how this same living relationship between govern- 
ment and governed is what the young of every nation have to create 
in their own land. 

Many pictures remain in my mind from these visits. The date 
groves of Kerbela where pomegranates, vines, oranges and roses are 
tangled among palms, and the dates slashed down on yellow shiny 
stems fall with a spatter of fruit on to strips of sacking, and the women 
in their black bundled clothes carry them to the donkey's waiting pan- 
niers : or the holy places, where the teachers of the Shi'a sit with 
their acolytes around them in old houses of pale yellow brick with 
turquoise woodwork, on dim alleys too narrow for wheels ; holy 
men swathed in creamy draperies and turbans nearly all Persian by 
origin they lived in an atmosphere of intrigue, theology and greed. 
When they got very old they were run by their sons and disciples, 
sallow and fat with want of exercise, though sometimes one saw 
the delicate ascetic Persian face. They had no furniture but a cushion 
or two on the floor, and books in niches of the walls, rush matting 
or carpet, and behind that apparent simplicity a fierce contest for 
power, unimaginably contained in the same frontiers as the hill 
villages of Kurdistan where the chief rode out on horseback to do 
one honour with all his men behind him, his turban jaunty with 
tassels and a rifle on his back. Or the creeks of Basra where the long 
thin lellams slid like snakes under the palm trees, where the heads of 
our groups talked perfect English, and democracy was fostered by 
the ancient traditions of commerce and the sight of sea-going ships. 
Or the strange southern land of the marshes, where houses are built 

BAGHDAD (1941, 1942) AND CYPRUS 

of reeds and men go from one shallow island to another by watery 
avenues between the knotted stems : or the middle Euphrates where 
there was always trouble, from floods or murders or wars, but the 
men who liked you were good friends for all that : or the towns of 
Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk and all their districts, ancient lands in the north, 
green and carpeted with flowers, whose cornlands sweep over 
mounds that cover the forts and villages of the Assyrian dead. 

To many who do not know this country's history, and to myself 
in moments of despondency, it seems now that most of our labour 
was wasted, with the murders of the immediate past and (no doubt) 
future in our mind. The Brothers after I left the Middle East thinned 
to an intelligentsia in Iraq, but not in Cairo, where they rose to 
sixty thousand and were only disbanded with the abrogation of the 
Anglo-Egyptian Treaty when fighting had broken out in the Canal 
Zone in 1952. In Iraq, in spite of Peggy's continued success with the 
women, the intake lacking the broad pyramid base of our rather 
promiscuous earlier assortment 1 declined to a trickle and died; and 
the passion for politics as opposed to construction, the constant 
nemesis of that unhappy land and the menace we had chiefly 
struggled to avert, swept back with its age-old familiar froth of 
violence. Into this later history I have no need to go. 

1 Christopher Scaife and I disagreed on this policy and I mention this here because 
I irhinV the apparently more reasonable and fastidious academic trend is a dangerous 
one in the Middle East. Christopher is now a brilliant teacher at Beirut University 
where discrimination does nothing but good; but in the outer jungle of Middle East 
politics where the gulf between intelligentsia and public is already far too great, the 
education of the whole and not of the educated alone seems to me essential. Any 
movement based solely on the intelligentsia becomes, I believe, either unbalanced 
or so anaemic that it dies : and this is what happened in Iraq. 



End of a Chapter 

la the spring of 1943, before leaving the Middle East, I made several 
journeys, of which the farthest was to India, at Field-Marshal 
WavelTs request. 'There will always be a room for you in our 
house/ he had written from New Delhi in July '42, 'and I am sure 
it would be a good thing from the propaganda point of view if you 
saw a little of India's problems ... So do try and come/ 

This enticement had to be resisted, but a visit to be combined with 
an exploration of Brotherhood possibilities in Persia was agreed for 
the April following. Threatened at the last moment by the higher 
priority of generals who very nearly caused my three weeks to be 
spent in a Basra hotel, the pilot of our aircraft saved me by off- 
loading fourteen gallons of petrol and taking me on instead ; and 
with this exact knowledge of my physical displacement I landed 
three days later in Gwalior and saw for the first time the richness and 
the colour of India. The Middle East, separated from us by lan- 
guage, is yet, by culture, tradition, and even religion, a part of our 
own stream; but the Mogul palaces dreaming in stone with their 
prisons beneath them, the tombs with their eclectic ornaments 
Victorian lamp-posts carved true to every detail in stone the bril- 
liant tints after die black and white of Arabia, all opened a world 
unexpectedly remote. I spent three weeks of delight in a house filled 
with those who later, when I returned to India at the very end of 
the war, were to become among the dearest of my friends. 

To drive back overland seemed to be the most economical as well 
as the most interesting way of making a report on Persia, and I 
bought a car. The Field-Marshal and all his A.D.C.s insisted on a 
driver as far as Quetta, where Johnnie Hawtrey was to join me for 
what he (mistakenly) thought of as a few weeks' rest; the Irish ser- 
geant who attended to these things procured more spare tyres than 


I dare to mention; and I drove through the fertile Punjab that rises 
and falls to its rivers, where the cultivation thins or thickens as water 
is near or far from Lahore by the tombs of Multan, rich places 
padded with a natural prosperity as far back in their past as one 
can look. 

On the third day I reached the Indus, iridescent like mother of 
pearl, where we waited for forty-eight hours and played bridge in 
a blinding climate while guards were posted to protect the road 
through Baluchistan. The gigantic tribesmen shouldered their rifles, 
dressed in rich colours with the empty mountains and the sky behind 
them; they stood a few hundred yards one from the other, like an 
avenue, to guard the solitary car. It is a memory of empire in its 
greatness. At night I was entertained in lonely pkces not forget- 
fulness but only space prevents my recording the hospitality and 
kindness of people on my way. In Quetta Johnnie appeared, insisted 
on driving himself, and we entered eastern Persia by skirting 

Tyres at that time cost ^300 each, and it was the sergeant's spares 
that saw us through. They also contributed a danger, for they would 
be stolen at a mountain corner and the traveller left, if alive, with 
no wheels for his journey. Perhaps for this reason, no other civilian 
car was travelling on our way as far as we knew. But we now 
came into the military stream of help to Russia, that panted up from 
Karachi day and night: a river of metal flowed north across the 
wastes of the Persian borderland. By the end of the third day we 
reached Meshed and relaxed, and the Skrines, old friends at the 
Consulate there, took us to the Imam Riza's tomb, the holiest place 
in Persia, where the Governor was their friend. 

From here on, the Teheran road was impassable because of floods : 
rather than risking a three weeks' wait, we made the six hundred 
miles or more back to the Baluchi frontier, took 'the first turning 
on the right*, and crossed two salt deserts to Isfahan. In that lonely 
corner, near the district where an American party has recently been 
killed by bandits, an unusually sharp pebble pierced our tank. We 
had a driver for this mountain stretch, and he patched the hole with 
a paste of dates while providence sent a colonel of the Sappers. He 
had a RJLMJEL, he said, about two hundred miles ahead. Johmiie, 


by this time, was despondent, seeing a court-martial at the end of an 
overstayed leave; but the colonel's R.E.M.E. mended and set us 
(with one more spare tyre) on our way ; we slept at Kerman in the 
peacock-tiled Consulate now abandoned and at Yezd beside the 
Parsees* towers of silence; until we again relaxed in Isfahan. It was 
probably an easier road to travel then than ever before or since. 

The golden gates of Meshed have a rosy sheen, like lustre ware, and 
seen in die cold and rainy spring, with men in ragged felts or pushtins 
(sheepskin coats) clustering along the water-course that cuts the square 
below them, they have a fine feeling of central Asia, the northern Muslim 
one imagines in Bokhara or Samarkand. But Isfahanis like a pale torquoise, 
its tree stems white, its sky light blue, a lovely skiey light about it all. In 
the fields around are huge circular towers like keeps, merely built to house 
innumerable pigeons. The whole of Isfahan gives the feeling of a great 
deal of labour and loveliness and thought spent on the light, airy, evane- 
scent side of things. It was fun going about the bazaars where the carpets, 
miniatures and stamped patterned coverlets are made by tiny boys with 
long eyelashes bending over their fine brushes and bright paints. 1 

The history of my car caused some scandal, for I sold it for a 
splendid profit as soon as I got to Teheran, having omitted (by 
ignorance and not intention) to get the diplomatic permit to which 
I was entitled. There were all sorts of hindrances for people who 
came through with permits but none, naturally, for those who came 
without. Once akeady I had asked in vain in Baghdad for a car; 
I had bought one for the necessities of our office and had paid for it 
myself, though the office was allowed to rent it at army rates : this 
would have cost HLM.G. more in a year than the car had cost 
altogether, and it was only when we rather honestly pointed it 
out to them that the buying of the car was belatedly sanctioned. 
Like a human baby, a Government sanction even in wartime took 
nine months* gestation. Now, when I came curling round the 
Afghan corner, they would no doubt buy my car for what it had 
cost and if on the other hand the bandits got it, my deficit and I 
would be left to do the best we could : so I was delighted when two 
Teheranis appeared who waved aside the absence of documents over 

1 Letter to G. de Gaury 28443. 
















slim-waisted glasses of tea ; and Johnnie and I divided the profit 
between us. 

In Teheran, having planned a quick flight to Baghdad, we watched 
our aeroplane trundle from its hanger and subside, with one wing 
damaged, into a drain that gave way beneath it. We drove over the 
passes day and night with three equally belated army officers, and 
were back in the heat of Iraq in time for Johnnie to catch his 
aeroplane to Delhi. Never, he said, had he been so near a nervous 
breakdown before. He was the gayest of companions, and is dead. 

To Owen Tweedy in Cairo I wrote a report which still seems 

BAGHDAD 2 April 

I arrived two days ago and found your letter waiting and am so 
touched by the kind and nice things you say. These are the wayside 
flowers on one's official path. 

Now I have a huge letter to write to you : (i) about Persia; (2) about 
the work here ; (3) about America in the autumn. 

Persia: the fates provided a more or less comprehensive tour one 
desert after another and no one about who wanted to be told about 
democracy, but I talked to the consuls in Meshed and Isfahan, and found 
both unanimous in saying that something on our lines was advisable and 
indeed urgent. In the Meshed district the Russians present a difficulty ; it 
would mean taking a rather careful line ! On the other hand, if something 
is not done soon, the whole place trill go Russian ; it is already going anti- 
British at a great rate. In Isfahan the consul told me there is a large 
industrial population now beginning to become self-conscious; also a 
number of rich and eager young men with nothing much to do ; if these 
two sets of people are not attended to, they will very soon drift away into 
some other camp. Both consuls are ready to co-operate. In Teheran I 
found a great deal of pessimism. I don't mind if people refuse suggestions 
when they have some alternative, but it seems melancholy to confine 
oneself to negation. Sir Reader, however, also very depressed and tired 
out, talked about the Brothers and told me that, if it could be started, the 
thing might be good. The problem remains : who is to do the job ? 

Hie other thing I felt should be promoted in. Persia to the fullest 
extent is the British Institute. The Persians are damouring for it: for 
want of staff, thousands of eager learners of English have to be turned 
away: the students arc excluded en Uoc. This seems to me deplorable and 


I can't see why, when everyone agrees on the urgency of a means of 
contact with the Persians, when there is a channel which they themselves 
are clamouring for, and when the only requisite is a sufficient number of 
elementary teachers of English I can't see why this cannot be provided; 
one hundred men would make no difference to our armies and might do a 
very great deal of good in Persia. It is a question of getting the C. in C.s 
to co-operate in extracting the suitable men. Mr. Holman has written a 
very urgent memorandum and perhaps something may develop. I know 
this has really nothing to do with us, but our object, after all, is the same 
and, personally, if someone else can reach it more easily than we can, I am 
all for helping them to do so. The British Insitute could be got going with 
no difficulty and at once, and its influence if it were started everywhere, 
in big towns and small, could be felt within three months or so of its 

In Iraq the Brothers are in the full crisis of their growing pains and much 
in the state in which they were in Egypt in 1941, with the difference that 
here, unlike Egypt, we have a British administration spread all over the 
country. What you tell me about the importance of working in with it I 
agree with most fully. I have kept in friendly touch with all the politicals 
in the districts where I, myself, started committees; the only one I 
neglected to keep fully informed was Colonel A. of the middle Euphrates 
where the Brothers generated themselves of their own accord. This was 
very stupid of me and like the fairy-tale, where all the fairies were invited 
to the christening except one, who caused trouble (not that Colonel A. is 
a wicked fairy, because he is rather a dear). The truth, however, seems to 
me to be a real difficulty which needs more than just tact to clear up. The 
country at present is being run and kept in hand perfectly satisfactorily by 
a network of politicals backed by our armies : in this scheme our Brothers, 
difficult to discipline, full of inconvenient zeal and altogether non-official, 
are definitely a nuisance and as things are at present unnecessary. 
Their usefulness will come when and if we have to withdraw our armies 
and our politicals : then an Iraqi network, loosely organized and friendly 
to ourselves, could be very useful indeed. The question is whether the 
administrators are willing to put up with this inconvenience now in view 
of a future need. It is a problem which never occurred in Egypt because 
there were no British administrators (though when we did come up 
against any, i.e. the police, we had difficulties of exactly the same sort) . 

This is the fundamental question to answer. There is, however, a 
legitimate ground of complaint against the Brothers at the moment, as 
they are not nearly sufficiently supervised. This has been owing to my 


illness, which was most ill-timed, and absence, and G/s not yet being 
experienced enough. What is quite obvious is that Iraq needs very much 
closer personal contact than Egypt and I would give anything to have 
someone experienced like Ronnie Fay to help me out here. However, 
I hope that a series of visits and meetings will provide a concentrated train- 
ing and shall do all I can. 

My visit to America I am most interested in. I gather I am wanted in 
September. This is a very long letter, my dear Owen : I hope you can read 
it to the end. I have come back very much better, though, my trouble 
hovers and pounces still at intervals : but I think I should carry on now for 
the half of the summer. It is extraordinary how I revive as soon as I breathe 
the mountain air : it has an effect like champagne ! 

CAIRO 5 May 1943 
My dear Freya, 

I read your Persian impressions with real interest. It is not easy to 
comment. My own feelings are those of Lord Allenby's maxim, * Step by 
Step*, and I would prefer to feel that our feet were firmly on the ground 
in Iraq before we start expanding in Iran. It's not that we oughtn't to go 
there. I believe that we ought. My doubts are whether we can, and your 
comments on your Brothers in Iraq strengthened my apprehension. We 
are all at our wits' end for staff and when I was talking to the D.A.G. a 
week ago, he said he was desperate and that he hoped we would think 
twice before expanding . . . You know what I mean and think. I have 
talked on these lines with Christopher who, on the whole, agrees. But as 
I read your Persian letter and today your account of mid-Euphrates, off 
to Mosul, then four more towns I was feeling more interested in you your- 
self than in the Ikhwan in Iraq. You seem bent on burning yourself out 
and that with your American tour to face in the autumn. You do know, 
don't you, that it is going to be a great strain on you physically ...el 
know I am Diking sense. Will you think it all over and then write to me 
with plans? 

Owen Tweedy's friendly advice was followed in all except the 
matter of a rest, and that was unattainable ; I had to visit outlying 
committees so as to leave as dear a field as possible behind me, and 
the next few months were spent in travelling from one flat, dusty, 
mud-brick townlet to another, divided by empty desert stretches 
and almost exactly alike. I slept in nearly every little centre in the 


country. The palm-trees thinned out to corn and then to bareness 
and back to corn, and only the river brought variety, looping in 
wide flood loops, brimming to the curb of its banks, and sometimes 
seeping through. 

We had to make a detour of twenty miles, cutting over ditches and 
cornfields to miss the flooded patches. I passed by Ur of the Chaldees to 
Basra, and then up by Qurna near the two rivers 1 meeting at what was 
supposed to be the site of Eden, where a litde committee of ours now sits 
on a terrace over the river, overhung with vines : then up the Tigris, with 
towns of the marshes along its banks. That strange region stretches, 
thirty or forty miles wide in meandering length, with island settlements 
at its fringe, but at heart nothing but a solitude of water, where forests of 
reeds grow intersected by waterways that only the marshmen know 
clear water, or carpeted with lilies and flowers that sway on gentle 
waves. The rivers bring muddy silt into this clean world and every year 
a litde more wet land is built up by hand, pushes out into the marsh, is cut 
by small straight channels, and grows rice. This process, they say, was the 
origin of the Genesis account of the creation. The people build their 
reed huts on the solid islands, beginning with sheaves of the tall stems 
ten feet or more; they tie them in arches and roof them with mats of the 
plaited leaves, and they look, inside, in their twilight, like the aisles of 
churches opening on to the water. One moves between them in shallow, 
wide boats studded with nails, black like gondolas and I believe with some 
kinship to them. I had a last day with one of the great sheikhs who are 
now immensely rich with all the rice they sell; and we took five boats 
with five men in each rowing ; upstream, they leaped out and towed us, 
running with light steps along the bank in and out of the intersecting 

These people are very friendly and stayed with us all through the 
troubles of 1941. Every day I make a speech in Arabic on democracy, and 
listen to a speech or poem, and talk to new members of my people 
lawyers, doctors, teachers, the sub-governor, carpenters, builders, a dozen 
or more labourers, and a sheikh of the bedawin : such have never sat in one 
committee before. It is moving to meet them : so ready we are with 
material help, so slow to see how far more support the spirit needs, 
wavering and uncertain. 2 

1 Tigris and Euphrates. 
* Letter to Lucy Beach. 


The most remembered of the journeys was the northern tour 
through Kurdistan, a country I did not know and now visited with 
my earliest friend in Iraq Muhammad Baban whose ancestor in 
the 1780*5 had founded the capital and called it after his own father 
Suleiman. The dome of his tomb is shown there among the rough 
and undistinguished slabs of the other graves. 

On a dusty April day we left Baghdad the air like damp under- 
wear and the tired spring colours of Iraq, jade green, white sky, pale 
sand, melting into each other with a charm of fragile horizontal lines 
like those faint pencil marks drawn by artists round sketches of sheep, 
perhaps, with a man in an abba before them. It is the secret of Iraq 
that it looks so much more like a sketch than a photograph: a 
point or two is marked and the rest left fluid in dust. 

Out of this patterned and travelling dust emerged Baquba and its 
bridge; the gardens of Shahraban; the similar ones of Karaghan. 
The names grew Turkish; the country rose subtly in differences of 
movement as between lake and sea. Wheat and barley were still 
poor for want of rain, and flowers, all but hollyhocks, were over; 
but the bee-eaters no longer looked startling as in Baghdad, like 
foreign jewels against the sand. They flickered naturally among the 
equally variegated colours of their background. 

Towns stood here on mounds of departed generations : Kifri, Tauq 
(bird), Tuz-Khurmati (salt and apricot) ; each had its river running 
to it from the bilk We drew water at a village carved into a motmd 
while sunset lay yellow over the thinly grown downs in a pale 
metallic sky and on a British landing-ground where the army was 
widening the road. The crocodile mouths of block-houses were 
scattered about the land, preparing the defences of Mosul 

Three and a half hours from Kirkuk, eastward over little hills, the 
flowers began: tufts of blue salvia, iris in the ditches, anemones red 
and presently white; and we came to Derbead, the gate of Kur- 
distan, and a white boulder just below it, where after long guer- 
rilla wars Sheikh Mahmud was captured by us in 1919. He now 
lived in exile near by. Sheikh Ahmed Barzan and Jafar Sultan were 
also and for the same reasons in exile in Suleimaniya : we had 
fought all these chiefs during the mandate years. 

We dipped from the Derbmd into their lovely land, locked in 


snowy hills, rich in small clear streams, where the grape hyacinth 
lined the damper meadows. Everyone here rode with a gun; they 
dressed in felt coats or a few velvet, with barrel trousers cut in 
narrowing seams to taper at the ankle for riding. 

The Suleimaniya road had been made only some ten years before 
this time. A deep ditch protected die town from waters pouring 
down the hills, and the one-storeyed houses had earth roofs sup- 
ported on rough poles against the dripping of the snow. The low 
subs were like a north-Italian market in a small town, selling charcoal, 
heaps of corn, barrels of rice, white and good bread, socks knitted 
in Fair-Isle patterns, cottons, Japanese home-made cotton shoes and 
tongs and hammers to deal with the solid cones of sugar that hung, 
wrapped in blue paper, in the booths. The people were friendly 
and there were thousands of swallows. 

Here we lunched while the brother and son of Sheikh Mahmud 
arrived to call, girt round with cartridges wherever cartridges could 
go. The brother had a charming weather-worn face with a sensitive 
mouth which quivered a little when he was amused, and tassels on 
his turban. The son was an efiendi with hair en brosse, and the 
efFendi's parrot cry that all is the fault of the English even the fact 
that the Kurds cannot unite. They swung away with their guns 
slung round them and we too were off, across the gently-dipping, 
green, flower-splashed plain of Shahr4-Zor, which is dotted with 
grassy mounds probably important in Islamic times the Persian 
frontier like a wave on our left, sugared with snow and running 
more or less even in the gnawed horizon of Avroman. Poppies, 
anemones, ranunculi, pink campion, and, in the corn, blue vetch 
and sheets of borage among the flowers. From a height above 
Halabja as the sun sank we saw long comb-like ridges, the plain 
beautiful with mirrored water-patches, the flocks trailing home 
among the darkening gardens. 


The house of Adda Khtutmm, 1 famous in the First World War, is 
dilapidated in the middle of Halabja. There is a photograph of her and her 

1 A constant friend to the British, this Lady of Halabja was a great character in the 
early days after the occupation of 'Mesopotamia' in the Hrst World War. 


two sons, one living still, small boys lield by the hand while she looks out 
with wide eyes from a Mongol face, open, intelligent (or rather sensible), 
and full of character. Her house 'with mothed and dripping arras hung* 
is crumbling : the outer portico where the guards lounged is filled with 
chicken-coops, the upper portico where Soane 1 sat as a Persian scribe 
forty or less years ago is derelict with just a bed here and there where the 
harim still lodges. There are three fine ceilings of mirror inlay held up on 
stalactite squinches, and one room with a good stucco frieze. From the 
windows, one looks over the flowery roofs to the garden, also ruined, and 
wide spaces beyond : it was all only built forty-two years ago and was left 
at Adela's death in 1924. 

We stayed in Halabja, and rode across meadows to villages whose 
streams leap out of the last patches of snow beneath their cliffs, and 
lunched tinder mulberry trees by the water the horses browsing 
and our escort shooting at an egg on a stick. We were a small com- 
pany, with three men on horses with guns, and about four on foot. 
At chaikhanas (tea houses) or by the springs where sycamores spread 
their shade, all stood up to salute our host, Hasan Beg. As I rode oix 
in the sun I thought of Huxley's Grey Eminence which I happened 
to be reading, and how 'annihilation* comes through the sight of 
beauty and through love (only some loves, alas) and how as far 
as I am concerned the sight of a snow horizon gives me that happi- 
ness of almost non-existence ! The Avroman ran in a long wave, 
and the downs in a grassy wave before them; and we returned to 
Suleimaniya by way of Penjwin. 


At tea at the Mutasmifs the Mirza Faraj's wife and daughter sailed 
with tribal pomp into our European drabness. The dresses give an 
Elizabethan effect and Miss Mirza altogether is Venetian Renaissance and 
might have walked out of the Doge's ceiling or with a gold and blue 
ribbon under her chin like Beatrice d'Este. The curve and shine of a 
raven's wing showed her hair under her turban. The Mirzas, though 
mere merchants and nothing in comparison to the sheikhs, Jafs, and 
Babans, added to the gaiety of the party. Miss Mirza told me she stands 
before her glass and enjoys herself by looking at her dress a harmless 
pastime. After two and a half hours at the Mutasarrifs we called on Dr. 

1 See his book Thmtgh Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise. 



Georges, a Greek tossed here four years ago in his small Odyssey. The 
Greek-British flags were painted over his chimney and a red rose V for 
Victory below the portraits of our King and Queen. He has forty relations 
in the Greek army, whose fate is unknown, hut he spoke of the future 
and left the past. He had come from Istanbul and gone to Athens, thence 
to Paris and Baghdad and eventually to this little haven, as good as any 
while it ksts. "We came back at 10.15 to meet Jafar Sultan (the exile) who 
can only call on 'important people' at night because then the police don't 
know. His son brought him tottering, seventy-nine, very deaf, but full of 
determination. It is harassing to be treated as 'important people* in 
Kurdistan, where every word is explosive and one feels that one can do 
little good at the moment and might easily do harm. The fighting just 
across the Persian border is sending electric shocks all over this country. 
The Kurds do nothing but ask to be taken over by Britain, and nothing is 
less likely for Britain to do. All one can say is that it is obviously a British 
wish that hill regions should be quiet and happy while the Caucasian front 
draws nearer; and that if the war comes, the Kurds will no doubt help 
in the fighting and improve their case. As one feels it to be an excellent 
case already, it is rather depressing. 1 Old Jafar Sultan counted fifteen sons 
killed by Persians, two in prison in Kermenshah, seven in Suleimaniya, 
six in Kirkuk, and has been an exile for twelve years. His son has the same 
sort of long sunken face with sad eyes and a gende look. At 11.30 they 
left and I went to bed almost sick with fatigue and the strain of these 
delicate subjects in my imperfect language; Persian is far easier to them 
than Arabic. 

We drove out in Sheikh Latif 's beige Hudson to lunch with Sheikh 
Mahmud, over fields patched with purple lilies, the kind of which the 
Persians make a tisane. Far away, in sight, rise the hills along the way to 
Kifri, Sheikh Mahmud's permanent residence now, with trees here and 
there. He is visiting his ruined estate here houses burnt, inhabitants 
fled and has only just been allowed back and Latif had a twenty-four- 
hour permission to visit his father. Our going was not welcomed (behind 
our backs). The meeting was rather pathetic the robust old Sheikh, 
about sixty-three, shows some signs of age, a plumpish figure and lines 
about the eyes- but as full of fight as ever, and his followers in a group 
beside him, most of them with something on some black-list, their baggy 
homespun faded from brown almost to white in the sun, their bulky 
sashes faded too, their guns and cartridge-belts round them. The tent, a 
poor affair, belonged to the village. It was a delight to look out again on a 

1 Iraq policy towards the Kurds improved greatly after the war. 


houseless landscape framed by the black woollen roof and slanting ropes 
and poles ; a single line of hovels ran behind, mud-roofed and walled into 
a stony hfll. The Sheikh was in dark green, with a black-dyed moustache 
and face round like his son's, and a round button of a nose that gave him 
an engaging small-boy look. He had a sense of fun and friendly feeling 
for us, bis old enemies, unmixed with any particular admiration for our 
politics. 'You make friends, you cherish them, you make them ready 
to do all for you, and then chuck them away.' But he admired our 
present policies. He made up a quatrain to describe how Satan, tormented 
in Hell, was allowed after many ages to approach the throne of Allah. 
Far from complaining, all he did was to give thanks to the Almighty. 
For what ? ' For not having been created a Baghdadi/ 

We sat chatting for an hour and, Arabic not being popular, I struggled 
with Persian while our driver flung himself on Sheikh Mahmud's hand 
and kissed it, though I had no idea he was a Kurd, After lunch I talked to 
Khanem Ayesha, his wife, a kind old face and hands quite lovely, small 
and nervous ; she uses them with exquisite elegance to take cigarettes from 
an old Persian box with silver scrolls of flowers. Across her turban and 
under her chin are ancient coins, some gold, some dipped in gold by the 
Kurds. Some are, I think, Seljuk; some Venetian like those the men of 
Hadhramaut wear on their daggers, some Hellenistic but whether 
Greek, Parthian or Sassanian I don't know. They were found in two jars 
in Avroman. Somewhere the road must He between the two Parthian 
capitals, from Takht-i-Suleiman to Ctesiphon, but where ? I would like 
to spend a month or two discovering that range. The lady's head-dress 
proves that the settlements were not only Islamic, and probably went 
from pre-classic to Mongol times, like those of Luristan. 

We reached John Chapman 1 in Kirkuk to hear that the death sentences 
on four of the 1941 rebels are to be carried out at dawn. It is still being 
kept quiet. Shansal is included, and I think of his horrid voice on their 
wireless gloating over our approaching end. Sad world that makes one 
welcome people's death. I also heard that I was made gold medallist by 
the R.G.S : 2 can't think what for, but delighted all the same. 

Some ten months after this visit John Chapman, who even now 
long after his death is loved by the Kurds and still remembered, 
wrote: * success in battle is soon forgotten, but you are building up 

1 The Political Officer. 

2 The Founder's Medal awarded for journeys in Persia and South Arabia and for 
my books. 



somediinLg that will live' : sad irony in view of Iraq now. Mean- 
while I took a last day in the north with the sheikhs of the Shammar. 
They shot bustard and raced gazelle round the ruins of Hatra, where 
a few spare bedawin tents alone were propped beside the Parthian 

Our Brotherhood was now well started on its way to peace. Our 
office was reported 'orderly, healthy and active', and it was hoped 
that our 'long-term views might receive consideration*. 1 In Cairo 
it was doing well with Christopher and Ronnie Fay devoted to it, 
and Eddie Gathorne-Hardy and Mary Berry new and excellent on 
our staff. Lulie Abul Huda was opening up die women's side in 
Palestine. In Iraq our numbers had nearly reached seven thousand 
and our committees had contributed ^700 out of their own pockets. 
Yet we needed about six more people for our staff and were des- 
perately in need of a good man to leave with Peggy after my depar- 
ture. 'I'm beginning to look,' Owen Tweedy wrote from Cairo, 
'into the future as it may unroll itself in this Middle East of ours. 
The future is a curious customer and you can't make rules . . . All 
you can do is to marshal your forces. When you have time, let me 
know what you think not only from the Brotherhood standpoint 
but from a more general one, embracing a world which will be 
extremely severe financially.' 

22 February 1943 
My dear Freya [Iltyd Clayton wrote from Cairo], 

I've been quite amused at Nuri's telegrams and letters (on Arab unity) 
and am bound to say I find myself largely in agreement with them. If 
only he would not allow his higher political ambitions to distract his 
attention from the more humdrum but at the moment more necessary 
task of administering his country and extracting from the occidentals as 
much as possible, he would have all my sympathy. What a tangle we 
are in in Arab countries. We got into it in 191 8 and don't look like getting 
out of it. I think they will quite likely cut die Gordian knot or knots 

1 From the Middle East Bureau, Cairo, to the Middle East Sections of the Ministry 
of Information in London. 


themselves after the war and I doubt if the great British public will be 
prepared for further wars in order to impose untruthful policies. I think 
fax saner and more objective views of all Middle Eastern questions would 
be taken if people would keep in mind one or two maxims. Firstly one 
must choose the right yardstick to judge these countries by. It is no use 
using the Indian Civil Service or the Sudan Civil Service . . . one should 
take the Balkan States, or Portugal or Central America, or even French 
recent form. Judged by these standards they do not come out so badly. 
Secondly the Levant and Egypt, and to a large extent Iraq, is not oriental 
they look to the West and, incidentally, all the Western ethics came 
from the Levant. We have a lot of history in common. Thirdly it is 
fatuous to say that they are not capable of idealism or sacrifice for a cause. 
They are corrupt, rather inefficient, prone to nepotism, but they can be 
inspired. The three great religions of the West had their origin within a 
few hundred miles of each other in the Middle East and it wasn't crass 
materialism that enabled about two thousand odds and ends to tie up two 
divisions and 24,000 police in Palestine for a couple of years. And all this 
goes for Jews as well as Arabs. Lastly, is the state into which Western 
ideas, culture and progress have landed Europe anything to write home 
about ? I think myself that we are the salt of the earth but am sometimes 
faintly surprised at others thinking so too. Lots don't. We must avoid 
smugness rather a national failing, though perhaps a useful one. Now 
Til get off my horse again. Today is the foulest day I've ever known in 
Cairo, blowing a gale and pouring with rain. Economy has removed all 
stoves and I am sitting in my office in a greatcoat 

The future and the peace were in our minds, and a great anxiety 
to avoid past mistakes now that the English reputation stood once 
again so high. We realized above all that a time of great economy 
must lie before us. *No overlapping will be allowed,' I wrote, *yet 
there should always be two sets of contacts in each of these inde- 
pendent countries one official with those in power and the other 
non-official with those who are out : otherwise an unfriendly opposi- 
tion will always be growing up, merely because we are exclusively 
identified with its opponents. This has often happened in the past, 
and it is essential to remedy it. 

'The official contacts are made by the diplomats and it seems to 
me that much facile and undeserved blame is poured upon this ser- 
vice : die British Institutes and a sttifidency of good teachers should 



provide die unofficial contacts as far as the youth problem requires 
with no further addition at all. We deal with the next stage, and 
take on chiefly young men whether official, army, political, labourer 
or peasant; 1 and this influence should continue independently of 
who is in power, provided it is kept well out of politics. 9 With many 
other cherished visions, this proved a dream after the ending of 
the war. 

When the day for departure came I was sad to leave. In spite of 
grief, and illness growing upon me, these years had been happy in 
their private brightness against the stormy background. Friendships 
had come in overflowing measure, and some, now dead, went very 
deep Cornwallis and Bishop, Wavell and Clayton. The world is 
not so good without them. Love, too, had come, easy, but perhaps 
happy for that reason. It is, I think, an ungenerous heart that does 
not give itself in wartime, when men's mere physical hunger for 
women is so great. (This, incidentally, may be the chief virtue of 
the semi-military female services, though obviously not one for 

The Baghdad scene had altered, though Nuri stayed unchanged at 
the head of affairs, suggesting 'that we take over a mandate for 
France and leave the Arabs alone*. 

General Wilson had gone to Italy 'Mark, Patrick and self,' he 
wrote, 'accompanied by dogs, parrots, etc. It was almost like 
Barnum and Bailey's circus on the move. There is still no news as 
to who is to succeed me in Baghdad but there will be a lot of troops 
there all the same. I had literally to eat my way out through farewell 
lunches and dinners.' 2 

Hermione had left to go with them all to Caserta ; and Nigel was 
soon to parachute into Greece. 

1 We had succeeded in forming three committees among the working men of Iraq, 
whose intercourse with the efTendi was so scarce as to be almost non-existent. * Though 
rudimentary now, they belong to a class which may develop quickly after the war, 
and they are important because they touch the large illiterate body of the country 
which it is very hard for efFendi influence to reach/ 

* Letter 27.243. 



Stewart was driving in July across the desert and took me by 
Syria and Lebanon through Palestine and Transjordan ; thence I flew 
alone, from Cairo along the desert route, where tank tracks still 
showed round the salt pans of Aghaila and the cliffs of Mareth, to 
Algiers. The Sicily offensive was in progress, and the sea almost to 
its horizon was full of ships. Harold Caccia 1 and Roger Makins, 2 
with our present Prime Minister, 3 had found themselves a villa 
flashing with mirrors, into which the former kindly rescued me 
from the squalor of the army transit hotel. I spent some ten days 
here where I met General Eisenhower and visited Turds and Car- 
thage. In those six weeks between Baghdad and the West I spoke to 
most of the political people, both English, American and Arab, in 
preparation for the American venture. Everyone helped me and 
increased my sorrow at going, and I finally left for London with my 
Middle Eastern picture fairly dear. For the last time I strapped into 
one of those naked Dakotas whose memory is cold and spiky metal ; 
looked on Fez with its tanks and domes of coloured tiles as we flew 
above it; spent an evening in Gibraltar, comfortably illuminated, 
since the bright coast of Spain made the blackout useless; and flew 
in moonlight over the Atlantic, with the risk of Fokkers pursuing, in 
bitter cold and silence, through a Vertical storm'. In the early dawn 
we landed in Cornwall on grass drenched with dew. England from 
the air had looked small as a cliff-bound nest rocked in the waves, 
filling one's silly heart with tears ; in her strong toils of grace she 
holds us. The people I was returning to were my people. The things 
they love, little or great, short familiar words I, too, love and under- 
stand. A letter from Jock, a letter from Pam awaited me Jock a 
captain now; 'What little bird or jungle communication made you 
promote me ? What evenings we shall have when we sit consuming 
the last bottle of claret in the country.* 

And Pam, trying hard to get into her 'dull head that Pat died the 
best death man can die that he has escaped the clipping of his spirit 
during a perhaps successful middle age when power and position 
does such dreadful things to us. He's got a flying start, and I can't 

1 Serving with the Resident Minister North Africa. 

a Assistant to die Resident Minister at Allied Forces H.Q. Mediterranean. 

8 Minister Resident at Allied H.Q. North-West Africa. 


help feeling terribly excited about my own dying ; but if I have long 
years to grow selfish and self-opinionated and blind, shall I find Pat 
among the lovely company he keeps ? I look at your godson and 
think this funny, gay and over-energetic little boy is going to live 
for ever and ever with the same excited twinkly look in his eyes and 
the same desire to do something funny to make one laugh : now it 
is only a silly face or noise.' 

This was home, that spins our private time and space into eternity ; 
and its comforting warmth, however bombed or weather-beaten, 
closed my first years of war. 



Passage to America 

In approaching the controversial landscape of Zionism one must 
bear in mind the basic rule that a part is not a synonym for the whole. 
Zionism is a part only of Jewry and the distinction must never be 
forgotten, all the more so since it often suits an advocate to see it 
blurred. The opponent of Zionism may be an anti-Semite: but he 
may just as easily not be so. In 1943 there was no anti-Semitism in 
British opposition: there was indeed so much sympathy for the 
Jews as such that it impeded our natural defences against what had 
already brought about an Arab war and was now threatening Anglo- 
American relations. The Zionist campaign at this time was aimed 
against Mr. Malcolm MacDonald's "White Paper produced in 
I939 1 to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine to twenty-nine 
thousand for the time being. It did not close the door for the future ; 
but it was hoped that the small, harassed and explosive country 
might be given time to recover from what I described on my U.S.A. 
tour as 'indigestion'. The main point, however, about the White 
Paper was a stipulation that after the admission of the twenty-nine 
thousand any further immigration was to take place only with the 
acquiescence of the majority i.e. the Arabs, who were there in the 
ratio of about two to one. It therefore stressed the principle of con- 
sent as against coercion, and the question really was whether or no 
the poptilation of a country has a right to decide the matter of its 
own immigration. Britain was ready and willing to help the 
Zionists as far as she could do so with the consent of the Arabs and no 
farther. There was no anti-Semitism in this attitude : it took away 
nothing from the general admiration for the Jewish achievement : 

1 When he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. In 1941 he had been appointed 
High Commissioiier in Canada. 



but it was a clear issue on a principle which like so many others 
we had allowed many extraneous sentiments to blur. 

I had felt strongly on this subject for many years as did most of 
the English men and women who, having come out to the Levant 
to look into the problem for themselves, thought that to force 
immigrants on a people at the point of a bayonet was an injustice 
which no other consideration could condone. 

The Arab side of the question is given in East is West, and the 
reader of the following chapters will, if he has patience, become 
familiar with it as we travel; in this book I concentrate on the 
English point of view. The Arab world had given us a break; they 
had shelved the Palestine struggle for the duration of the war; they 
regarded the White Paper as *a solemn undertaking*; its infringe- 
ment would cause certain trouble not only in Palestine but in the 
neighbouring nations of Arabia ; it gave us our one, eleventh-hour 
chance to get back to that position of speaking with conviction to 
people in their own interest which is, as we have seen, the only safe 
basis of persuasion; and our Government having at last reached a 
firm conclusion, seemed determined to maintain it. The Zionists 
therefore shifted their whole impetus to the U.S.A., where they 
fought the White Paper knowing that England could not put 
through an Arabian policy in the teeth of her ally. In the long run 
they succeeded and the Middle East is what it is ; the discrediting of 
the West is now fairly complete. But in 1943 it was felt that the 
almost total ignorance of the transatlantic public on Middle Eastern 
affairs was a danger that could perhaps be mitigated; it was serious 
enough at that time to be seen as a threat to our friendly relations ; 
and I was sent a puny David to see what I could do : my inade- 
quacy is perhaps a measure of ways and means in wartime. 

'Women are strongest, but above all things Truth beareth away 
the victory/ Stewart wrote to me as I left; and in the middle of 
November 1943 I shipped on the Aquitania stripped, of course, for 
war, and carrying five thousand troops to Halifax or to the Pacific 
beyond who knows ? Their hammocks were slung deck below 
deck in our view as we went down for meals. They filled the one 
saloon with a sort of collective haze, in which only khaki wreathed 
in tobacco smoke and punctuated with faces seemed to exist with 



an amorphous temporary life. Over their heads, cleared now and 
then by eddies of the smoke, the Aquitania's luxury ceiling appeared 
and hid itself; and it was this sight of former splendour under the 
stripping, a gilt bracket, a tattered skirting, a bit of painted doorway 
gone dark with unwashed touches, that gave us our atmosphere of 

There were few women, nearly all with babies who seemed (by 
the carefulness of his instructions) to weigh heavily on our captain's 
mind; at all costs infants are sheltered to grow up for another war. 
Their pink little faces wrapped in shawls were inured twice a day 
to deck-drill, with officers helping mothers to arrange the cork 
jackets for two. The Atlantic howled by in its usual gruesome hurry, 
putty-green flecked with white. The sea-gulls dipped sideways, 
their round eyes fixed on food. The day rolled low in the sky from 
squall to squall. 

A cabin for one had been arranged to hold four of us. It looked 
like a slum, with all we needed for six or seven days hung out on 
various strings; but the heart of it was sound, with helpfulness and 
kindness inside it; and its worst irritations were the luxury gadgets 
made for a single occupant, which wasted valuable room, and the 
icy threads of Atlantic air that seemed like ghosts to pass through 
solid metal, for the porthole was battened down from seven at night 
to seven in the morning for fear of submarines. 

We were, we soon discovered, not in convoy at all. The Aquitcmia 
was so big and so strong that she could do better by herself and 
relied on secrecy and swiftness to get across. Like a greyhound 
through grass, or the poet's words through the generations, she sped 
night and day with her strong thudding heart, and the Atlantic 
waves with their sodden possibilities of death inside them flattened 
themselves against her. The sea as we came towards its middle 
fastnesses stretched into long wizened sinews and even its foam 
seemed grey like the storm-clouds above. 

On the third or fourth day I developed acute appendicitis. I was 
not told what it was, but the pain was so violent that a doctor came 
and looked at me with a blank young face of panic inspired, I 
thought, by the awfulness of having to deal with a woman in this 
world of mea for the ship's hospital was full, and there were only 


orderlies about. They gave me what I was later told was M. & B., 
and explained that I had a gastric cold ; I was exonerated from boat- 
drill and had the relief of thinking that, if necessary, I could now 
drown in a quiet independent way by myself. For the next three 
days I lay in my bunk, fed by kind companions with such few things 
as are suitable for appendicitis out of the menu of a troopship in war. 
I had books ; and the horizon kept itself quiet below the port-hole ; 
but the weary nights dragged minute by minute in an almost in- 
tolerable absence of air interspersed with icy intervals whenever one 
had to walk down the clanking corridors of metal, groaning and 
straining almost in darkness as they pulled us through the sea. I 
longed for seven o'clock and the opening of the port-hole, and the 
sight of the sullen wind-ripped grey ! And lifting myself to look out 
over the sunless ridges, tried to remember the existence of the blue 
Mediterranean, the little journeys from harbour to harbour in an- 
cient grooves, the well-worn Greco-Roman world. When we 
berthed in Halifax, late on the fourth evening of my illness, I felt 
suddenly as if nothing could keep me alive through another night; 
the doctor, increasingly worried, evidently felt about it as I did, and 
at ii p.m. I was tucked in blankets on a stretcher and lifted down a 
gangway on to land. 

The five thousand troops must have thought that some pampered 
general was being allowed ashore while they were battened down 
for another set of hours almost as uncomfortable as mine. Tier above 
tier from the huge ship's side their dim crowding faces lined the 
narrow slits of decks as they leaned out with cat-calls of annoyance ; 
until, in a slanting drizzle, preceded by a lantern and with four men 
carrying the stretcher, my cortege appeared like the funeral of Sir 
John Moore at Coruiina, surrounded by shadows and rain. The five 
thousand looked down in silence, the stretcher-bearers stumbled on, 
and the smooth flank of Aquitania lifted itself out of sight into the 
starless region of the elements where she belonged. I was now on a 
pleasantly quiescent cobbled street; lifted into an ambulance; trans- 
ported to an infirmary; unwrapped by a kind and soothing nun; 
put into a four-legged bed, and operated on at two hours' notice. 
As the appendix had already broken, the chances of survival seemed 
small. But I passed through it all without a hitch, and was tottering 



about in a fortnight a remarkable feat which surprised all except 
myself who knew nothing about it. It was due to skilled surgery 
and devoted nursing which I think of with gratitude often, and also 
perhaps to the unsurpassed unpleasantness of the Atlantic which pre- 
pares one with equanimity for any other trial. 1 

25 October 1943 
Dearest Jock, 

I can now say that I am well, but the best part of it is that it would 
have been well anyway. I felt that I had done what I most wanted and 
was leaving no great gap behind : like a child crossing stepping-stones, I 
had been helped on this side and now, if the last bigger jump remained, 
most hands I loved were waiting to catch me on the other; I felt I can't 
tell you how detached, fluid and gay, and went to sleep looking at the 
Euganean hills in the afternoon sun. If that had been the end, who could 
have complained ? But I woke quite calm and collected and lay thinking 
that perhaps some day I might regret not having slipped away on so 
easy a moment. 

Anyway my poor Ministry whose perpetual Utopia it is to make 
People behave like Files, must be very worried, for here am I not even 
in the country in which their schedule puts me. I am awfully happy and 
comfortable. The voyage was a nightmare. It appears that, battened 
down in that horrible cabin, I started talking in my sleep and was heard 
to say : *Life is real, Hfe is earnest, how I wish it weren't/ 

My mind, inspired by the natural and beneficial eflects of illness, 
ran on these lines. I wrote to Pam: 

26 October 

I have day and night nurses, all young and gay with husbands in the 
air or navy; they are Protestants and do the trained work and the Sisters 
are Catholics and do the overseeing and it seems a perfect combination 
of Martha and Mary. In fact if one realized how important it is to have 
one's Opposite about, how easy the world would be. Instead of saying *I 
am extravagant and I hate mean people', one would say 'I must have 
someone rather mean about me', and vice versa! You see how much 
pleasanter everyone would become. 

The doctor brought me a little wireless and I listened to Tchaikovsky's 
fourth symphony. It is very grand, with, massed trumpets blowing as it 

1 The Geographical Magazine f April 1954. 


were out of a purple and tumultuous battlement of cloud. It seemed to 
stretch along the sky, clearing here and there to show, closely ranked 
into the distance under banners, the celestial armies : you could not see 
them, but you could see at points in the long line the sun catch the curve 
of the trumpets as they answered each other, army to army, round the 
zodiac and back into the dawn. The radio made noises which I took to 
be the powers of evil, but the great trumpets sounded unperturbed. In a 
sort of shadow below lay the long dim horizon of earth and a causeway 
easy and plain but with a bad surface leading up. And presently the 
sound of lie trumpets was broken by a rather cheerful human clatter and 
a jeep came sputtering up the causeway. The officer got out of it with a 
dazed look, murmuring 'I've lost our battle. I thought we were scup- 
pered/ Then he looked and he saw in what ranks he stood. Instead of 
armaments he saw the sanctuary of Power, and in the place where the 
guns should be massed he saw Light irresistible and where the fighter 
aircraft should be rising he saw flashing, in splendour unendurable, the 
never-surrendering heart of Love. And the angels nearest to him said : 
* Welcome, stranger/ 'I'm not a stranger/ said the officer. 'I belong to 
the sector just down that causeway. But I seem to have lost my people. 
Something bit us and I thought we were done. It makes no odds. I can 
turn the old bus round and fight here just as well/ Then, with an extra- 
ordinary air of cheerfulness he turned to his jeep and the two or three 
men inside it : 'Turn her round, boys ; look lively/ he said. 'We're not 
where we want to be, but it's all the same battle. It makes no odds at 
all/ Perhaps it ought to have been a tank, because you wouldn't use a 
jeep in actual fighting. Anyway it seems to me as true a story as most. 

I had leisure to think of these things in general and wrote to my 
friends describing the hospital torpedoed sailors washed up here 
and petted back to life, and the nuns with their high Gothic head- 
dress and peaceful faces. 

'They welcome you with human charity beautifully different from 
our Economic age . . . Of course one notices at once that the point of 
view is more reasonable than that of a government office ; it is obviously 
the presence of religion but how does this work itself out ? The office 
sfeter here tells me that she had a protest from the shipping company for 
accepting at sick man at midnight with his papers not in order : she wrote 
fed; jhat site would always continue to accept &ck men at her door who 
aiteJed Mp ancf it was for the company to decide whether they paid for 


them or not (they have gone on paying) I don't believe we can have 

civilization unless we accept, right through private and public, national 
and international life, the doctrine that we are responsible for the human 
beings we come in contact with. I have often wondered why the tribal 
society with all its poverty is, on the whole, so contented, and believe it 
is just this feeling of human responsibility. To lay down economic well- 
being for all by law does not seem to meet the need ; one can't make good- 
ness foolproof, and, if one began -wife, feeling, the economic laws would 
inevitably follow. Perhaps the result will be the same, but it is very much 
cart before horse. The plan to feed all Europe shows a beginning in an 
empiric way but I think the Sisters of St. Vincent have the real ap- 
proach/ 1 

Have you read Arthur Bryant's English Saga* [I wrote to Robin 
Maugham.] It does seem to put its finger on our modern weakness 
the fact that power and responsibility do not necessarily go together. 
Wherever this divorce occurs i.e. in big concerns of shareholders in no 
direct relation with the men they employ everything worth while goes 
to pieces. Well now, it seems to me that wherever we undertake to serve 
foreign nations, whether as governments or private people, we should do 
so with a feeling of responsibility for them. I mean that if a British 
engineer accepts a job on Egyptian railways he should fed so responsible 
that either his railway goes properly or he resigns. 

This standard is reached quite often but not generally enough to give 
that status that one desires to British employment. An unkind book like 
Jarvis's Oriental Spotlight, written after thirty years in their service, should 
not be possible. If you made the feeling of responsibility so cardinal a 
principle of your centre 2 that it came to be counted on as a characteristic 
of every British official who is trained there, so that it grew to be recog- 
nized as the basis of our service I believe it would help more than 
anything else to make us cherished in die world. There is a dreary com- 
mercial morality that says that so long as you do what you have under- 
taken it is all that is required (Cain's remark that he was not Abel's 
keeper). I have seen it doing frightful harm all over the Middle East and 
it seerns to me that our first effort should be to make people feel that 
Abel's business is our business as soon as we get our living in his neigh- 
bourhood. I don't know if I have expressed this very adequately, but 
you will understand. . . . 

1 letters to Henry Channon and Iltyd Clayton 11.11.43. 

* MJ5LG.A.S. in Lebanon which is still doing excellent work. 


To Aidati Philips one of Bishop's young men in the house on the 
Tigris, I wrote on the same lines about his left-wing friends : 

... to make of ourselves one nation again, a homogeneous people : I 
don't suppose anyone but the young left-wing people can do it but, 
Aidan, they are terribly uneducated ! I mean by that that when I look 
back on what I have had in life, a constant background of beauty, music 
and art and the understanding of lovely things, a constant intercourse with 
people of many different nations and an open doorway into the histories 
of the past a sort of rich light illuminating everything with a variety of 
colours and I look round, I see how few have been so fortunate : and it 
seems to me that it is just this richness of civilization which your young 
men need to make them fit for the delicate business of governing, which 
is after all nothing more nor less than the dealing with human souls. So, 
my dear Aidan, I shall settle in Asolo or whatever small ruin is left there, 
and you can bring your friends and have them mellowed in the atmo- 
sphere of an older tradition, which won't do them any harm at all; in 
fact it should rescue a few from that Moloch of a 'planned economic 
universe' which is the danger as well as the necessity of our age. We are 
trying to make everything foolproof even how to be good and to do 
that we have to build on the lowest common denominator in human 
nature : I can't think that that will lead us to the Communion of Saints, 
which seems to me still the only possible aim for civilization. Am I 
talking nonsense ? I lie here watching the Canadian clouds blow a hurri- 
cane and wonder at the pattern of it all. I wonder if we shall bathe in 
Tigris ever again ? Do you keep up the high standard of our bulletin ? 

My thoughts were still mostly on the far side of the Atlantic. 

11 November 1943 
My dear Peter [Coats] 

A school in England could not be got to take an interest in Shakes- 
peare at a time when the air raids were particularly trying till one day 
they readied this bit of Macbeth in their class : 

The night has been unruly : where we lay 

Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say, 

heard i* the air ; strange screams of death, 
with accents terrible 


Of dire combustion and confus'd events 
New hatch'd to the woeful time. The obscure bird 
Clamour* d the livelong night : some say the earth 
Was feverous and did shake. 

The whole class became interested and the 'obscure bird' was received 
with broad grins. This is all out of a small book which also quotes a 
Japanese student's essay on the poems of A. E. Housman. 'I think Hous- 
man is quite right. We will do no good to anyone by dying for our 
country, but we will be admired and we all want to be admired, and any- 
way we are better dead.' Awfully difficult point of view to fight against ! 

A week later I was in. New York, dazzled by what seemed to me 
one of the most exciting cities in the world: the blueness of the sky 
floated about its pencil buildings, and shops, taxis, all human affairs 
seemed to go on in deep canyon-beds of natural erosion rather than 
among the excrescences constructed by men. *It is the only town 
where one's looks are drawn all the time away from the ground into 
the sky: the huge buildings are not too close together; they keep 
their individuality like the towers of San Gimignano or Bologna, 
and from the shadow of the streets you look to their sunlight and the 
long vistas of the avenues, and would not be surprised to see clouds 
trailing about their summits. 1 

Mrs. Otto Kahn 2 sheltered me in her kind and luxurious flat, where 
the huge outlines by the river looked at night like illuminated 
sponges, mystery and brilliance combined. The shops in those lean 
years made one delirious, and I liked the friendly people the 
man who said, when I bought a suitcase, 'And I hope you'll come 
safe from your journey,' and the taxi-drivers whose family affairs 
one listened to as one went along. 'I live half-days still/ I wrote to 
Pam, *but enough to be able to enjoy New York fantastically 
beautiful in a Babylonian way and full of the unexpected. A friend 
of Momo's was stopped in the street by a student "developing his 
personality", who asked would she mind talking to him as his 
teacher had told the class to collect eight interviews, each off 
strangers. The taxi-men talk to you like pure Arabs ; the shops are 

1 To G. de Gaury 24.11.43. 

2 Momo Marriott's mother, 



dazzling and live up to their dim colonial traditions of keeping the 
community happy; coming here suddenly, the profusion is fan- 
tasticbut little holes here and there only rayon stockings and the 
end of French lingerie in sight.' 1 

The war seemed very far. I went to hear Toscanini. I had met 
him over thirty years before, fiery, dark, with a conqueror's profile, 
and now he came with immense dignity and a most touching, noble 
head but a little stoop, and white hair, and tired. 'Perhaps,' I 
wrote, 'he feels it rather good to be seeing the end of the journey.' 

By the middle of November I was drifting gradually into my 
work. A critical note appears. 'The amount of nonsense talked is 
phenomenal.' 'I have been hearing about the Negroes in the south, 
did you know that three whites equal five blacks in voting ? And 
then all this piety over India ! ' I was ' appalled at the vastness of the 
job'. 'I don't believe one can combat emotions with mere facts: 
we always think that anti-British feelings come from ignorance when 
they actually come from dislike.' I wrote thus to Nigel at the end 
of November, and there was more disillusion to come. 

The collection of letters that follows, written, instead of reports, to 
inform my Ministry, gives the picture as I saw it, though now, in 
retrospect, with many obstacles forgotten and the intercourse of 
fifteen later years remembered, it would probably appear different, 
and might be a truer picture ; yet it would lose the honesty of what 
was written under the immediate impact of circumstance. Nor was 
there, as far as I can judge or remember, any preliminary bias. * We 
must concentrate on our Atlantic civilization, which must run the 
world for some time to come,' I had written in November 1941 
and it was the belief I took with me. The prejudices that developed 
were the result of what I found; and as, after a six months' stay, 
they did not prevent a friendly and grateful recollection, I leave the 
letters abridged but essentially untouched, with their asperities in- 
cluded: particularly as, from an historic point of view, they co- 
a good deal of English opinion at that time. 



New York to Chicago 

NEW YORK 20 November 
My dear Elizabeth, 1 

The basic American prejudice is I suspect against us and our so- 
called imperialism: one sees it in the Lebanon, Indian, Palestine questions, 
and I never discuss anything without pointing out that the British Empire 
in the old sense ended when South Africa gained her independence. If 
we could establish this perfectly truthful view, we should find it easier 
to get understanding for other individual problems. 

My hostess, Mrs. Otto Kahn, and her daughters are all keen to help, 
and are introducing me to the moderate Jews, not one of whom suspected 
the existence of the second clause in the Balfour Declaration. So I have 
distributed copies. It seems important that these moderates should realize 
that we have actually JitlfiUed the Declaration and I notice that the second 
clause makes a strong impression. 

I met Baroness R. at lunch. Weizmann tells her there is plenty of 
room for four million people in Palestine. The Arab birth-rate came in 
useful 2 and left her depressed. She struck me as one who would yield to 
the evidence of a firm attitude if H.M.G. could only decide to take it: I 
can't help feeling that a very great number would be in this category. 
The social treatment of the Jews here is odious. 

21 November 1943 

This is becoming a diary, but it may be useful, and if not you can 
throw it away. 

I met the bosom friend of Clare Luce (who is now writing regrettably 
about India) and pointed out that while our Commonwealth revolution 
is peacefully progressing, and is all so recent, we still have to administer, 
and must do so with administrators trained in die old school ; hence shocks 

1 Elizabeth Monroe (Mrs. Neame) of the Middle East Department of the Ministry 
of Information. 

2 Two to four as against one to six for the Zionists. 


to a pure democrat travelling in India wlio hears Blimpish sentiments 
that actually misrepresent us. This, Mrs. C. told me, was a new idea to 
her, and it seems that all new ideas are telephoned to Clare Luce daily. 

The French here are simmering and put all their troubles down to 
British jealousy. That, however, is an easy one to counter : we need never 
have handed Syria hack to them but kept it as military administered 
territory till the peace. My God, why didn't we ? 

25 November 1943 

It is one of the propagandist's purest pleasures to see his own words 
come back dressed up as Other People's Ideas, and to do this it does seem 
important that one should say a few things over and over and all say the 
same more or less. For instance, I have had two exhausting hours with 
the most active spirit (I am told) in the moderate Jewish Party which has 
just seceded from the Zionists. We split upon the White Paper, because 
he had been convinced by British informants that four members of the 
War Cabinet and Mr. Churchill are in favour of abrogating it. I feel 
quite certain that this knowledge or supposed knowledge is having a 
regrettable effect in stiffening the programme of the moderates who are 
out for just what they think they can get and no more. In fact he admitted 
to me that if my view were (in his eyes) that of H.M.G. it would make a 
difference ; but they are convinced, so he said, that the Cabinet is with 
them. Whatever the Cabinet's views may be, it is unfortunate, when 
bargaining with orientals, that this conviction should have got across to 

I took the line that the moderate Jews and the British should, in the 
nature of the circumstances, be co-operative; that the White Paper is so 
unanimously clung to by all Arab opinion that Great Britain cannot alter 
it except with Arab consent, or except at the expense of disorders in the 
Muslim world which are too expensive; and I gave it as a personal 
opinion that the moderates would serve their cause best by giving 
Palestinian immigration a rest and building an interim programme for 
settlement elsewhere which HJM.G. could help in while Palestine, if 
die Arabs were given an interval and their unification gradually pro- 
gress^d, might be a much easier problem in a few years' time. I don't 
tfiis advice will have the slightest effect, 

* 28 November 1943 

Wei enoiogh to spend aa aftenxooa visiting our division here 
und them more encouraging, kind and sympathetic, 
talb^tk Mi's. M<?Cormicfc of The ShraU Tribune and 



Mrs. Clare Luce Mrs. M. twinkling and sparkling with life, fun and 
sense, I thought one of the nicest women, full of curiosity and soundness : 
Mrs. Luce 'another pair of sleeves', with lovely eyes fixed on the middle 
distance when forcibly brought to sit beside me. She opened with the 
remark that what she believed in was Freedom, resolutely shut down the 
Middle East, and dragged me to India. She has, they tell me, five secre- 
taries who provide her with facts, so that a war of statistics is to be avoided, 
but her own were singularly inaccurate. I gave her a little sketch of 
'freedom' in Iraq and the years of preparation to prevent its being a 
massacre of minorities. 'Let there be massacres/ said Clare: 'Why 
should the white races have a monopoly of murder?' 'Freedom for 
Fratricide/ I suggested to her for a slogan, which amused the listeners 
but not her. She interrupted so often that at last I protested and said I 
must be allowed a 'say'. 'That is our American way/ 'All right/ said I, 
'I shall be American and interrupt too' which strangely enough made 
her quite friendly. If she carries much weight now, I don't think she will 
in a few years, she is too much tinkle. 

With Miss Case, who is a staunch Republican, discussed Wendell 
Wilkie's book on the Middle East which, I remarked, omitted to state 
that all the things he advocated were what we were already trying to 
do and therefore rather hurt our feelings. She seemed surprised at our 
having any (feelings) ; I think they are useful things to mention now and 
then. After all, why should everyone else have the monopoly ? 

What a frightful tough job this is ! At the moment I feel like an 
unarmed Christian with no particular method for dealing with lions 
except a definite wish to side-track India and Hong Kong. 

I had a long tete-a-tete with one of the chief newspaper owners very 
petite, all in black velvet, with white curls all over her head, as if she were 
a young girl suddenly shrunk, and the air of always having been too rich 
to be happy. She gathered my information in an industrious way, with 
no joie de vivre, and only woke to enthusiasm over new methods of 
welding in shipyards. 

Then went on to a cocktail party of intellectuals and discovered that 
Liberal and pro-Zionist seem to be considered synonymous. I said I was 
one but not the other, and Dorothy Thompson (N.Y. Herald Tribune) 
agreed that it is wrong to turn people (Arabs) out of their own country; 
(she has married a Czech and must know). She was fun : when she starts 
talking she looks round for an audience as if it were a missing handbag. 
It was an amusing party Gipsy Rose Lee the strip-tease artiste side by 
side with die head of the Chamber of Commerce. 



p December 1943 

An epidemic of flu laid me low but convalescing now. It seems to 
me a sad failure of medicine that these minor diseases go on for thousands 
of years causing more accumulated waste of time and spirit than the 
important ones which doctors attend to; it is like morals people feel 
pleased with themselves for not committing murders, thefts, etc., for 
which the temptation is comparatively rare, whereas if you come to 
think of it, it would make life much pleasanter if they concentrated 
on the smaller virtues like kind and pleasant manners even if the strain of 
doing so made them commit a murder now and then? 

We had Dorothy Thompson to tea with a few people. The influential 
ones don't in the least want to hear about the Middle East as it is they who 
want to do the talking, but I am learning that delicate methods are no 
good and I asked her straight out for advice. 'Palestine,' she said, 'is 
insoluble/ I didn't agree, and, the Balfour Declaration coming up, read 
the 1922 definition out to them all to show that we have carried it out. 
I must say it reads very well and obviously made a good impression. I 
stuck to the line of 'immigration short of coercion*, and Dorothy went 
off with Nuri's brochure under her arm. A little good may have been 
done. She is a generous creature and I like her and think one would like 
her more as one knew her better; but she goes by emotion and puts the 
intellectual touches on afterwards so that one would never be safe unless 
her emotions were with one. 

The night before at dinner I was asked why I had come, and ex- 
plained that so many things were being said about the Middle East that 
I had been asked to give facts about it to anyone who wished to hear. 
'Thank God,' said my hostess, 'she doesn't say she has just crossed the 
ocean to see her doctor as most of them do ! * 

One point of interest I heard indirectly from one of the biggest aircraft 
factories : it came from a director and he says that the visits paid by our 
R.A.F. are disliked by the U.S. working man because the officers (when 
they are being shown over the works) walk 'stiff and proud' and say 
nothing to anybody. They would surely find it quite easy to chat a bit if 
the idea were suggested? 

I enclose the Tribune interview. The horrifying statement that 
Habbaniya was never fired on is not my fault ! I corrected and con- 
tradicted it, in writing, and still it went in. What caa one do 2 Another 
paper P.M. a pleasing young woman was deeply interested to hear 
that we have not been seizing the Irish ports and that South Africa chose 
to be in the war by free election: I was trying to explain that these facts 


would give more pleasure and no less instruction than the things they are 
always publishing about India, and was rather taken aback to find their 
very existence unknown. 

You can tell the dear Establishment that I have had to mortgage two 
months' salary to get clothes to cover me for the winter. 1 

I have been asked to speak at a private tea party of the Women's 
Action Committee. Inclining to the heresy that Inaction is a woman's 
proper sphere, I suppose I must not even think such a thing till the war is 
over and I have the last committee behind me ! 

PS. I don't think action matters so long as one realizes that it is un- 
important but so few committee women do ! 

PPS. I have a rather sad story from an American friend who left 
Cairo because she couldn't any longer bear the things the 'Bright Young 
British' said about America. There was a large party in her house the 
night after Pearl Harbour and one of them arrived rubbing his hands and 
saying : 'Hurrah, they're in it at last.' This was Randolph Churchill. 

10 December 1943 

The P.M. interviewer went away full of enthusiasm over us in the 
Middle East and over the White Paper embodying the Atlantic Charter 
but her chiefs decided not to publish ! It shows, as we guessed, that one 
goes best through private channels. 

My only other business visitor was an intelligent young anti-Zionist. 
I still believe that these moderate Jews, who are being threatened by the 
Zionist idea, are the best allies the only people in the U.S.A. who have a 
direct interest in combating the Zionists and the power to do so. 

I forgot to tell you one little point of gossip with Clare Luce. She 
said that Iraq was not so free as I thought, from things the Iraqi Minister 
had been telling her. I remarked that he would spend hours telling her 
frightful things about the British 'if that is what she seemed to enjoy'. 
It may be just an invention. 

The whole of this question is vitiated by a basic misunderstanding of 
the character of the British political theory; until they get rid of the 
Empire complex and think of us as a Commonwealth no question which 
attaches to that concept can find its level. And they don't want to think 
of us as a Commonwealth, because then America loses her role of liberator. 
Nothing makes one so unpopular as the showing of Great Britain in a 
liberal light; they change the subject instandy, like shutting down a lid. 
It is like preventing a parrot from saying the one thing it says fluently, it 
1 Elizabeth Had made a gallant but unsuccessful attempt for an allowance to prevent 
my travelling *like a Baghdad Sketch'. 


naturally hates having it taken away. The only thing to do is to build up, 
slowly and carefully, another parrot slogan which may say the opposite 
in time. Until that is done, I believe we shall make no headway for 
anything dealing with our 'overseas'. 

15 December 1943 
My dear Stewart, 

It was so nice to hear from you, and get a little Baghdad news, of 
which my friends are very stingy. There is an orphaned feeling which 
makes letters welcome, and this in spite of kindness here. It is because the 
world does look different from the opposite side. Or perhaps it is de- 
pressing to meet so many people with opinions and no foundations 
they gather facts like magpies and never face the idea that two contra- 
dictory ones can't be true at the same time. Ladies' luncheons grey 
locks and grenadier mouths on solid rectangular bases : they look like a 
collection of totem poles until they turn into individuals at the end. I 
can't think why I have been sent here ; I have no mass appeal ; I hate 
efficient women; I like truth and am bored by information; and senti- 
mental inaccuracies make me sick. I am tired of being told how bad we 
are in India by people who can't even keep their own Negroes happy. 
When they ask me where the poor Jews are to go, I am beginning to ask 
whether there isn't quite a lot of empty country in the States (there is). 
My hostess tells me that everyone gets this reaction and I am hoping it 
may be better as soon as one gets away from the intelligentsia which 
anyway is awful almost everywhere. How lovely it would be to go for 
a sail in Mayun ! to sit still now and then and let Allah do the talking. . . ! 
There will be very little left of your poor little friend after Chicago. 

18 December 1943 
My dear Elizabeth, 

Yesterday I crept out for the first time still feeling very low, and came 
back shattered, as it was a lunch of fifty ladies of the Foreign Policy 
Association listening to the foreign editor of Business Week on 'Rumblings 
in the Middle East', On the invitation the printing said Far East (by 
mistake) and it is brought home to me that it is better to speak of the Arab 
World and leave East out of it altogether, as that unlucky word im- 
mediately entangles the minds of one's listeners in India. The secretary 
of the association thinks of involving me in frequent lunches of this 
kind and, of course, I feel it is just what I am here for and there is nothing 
for it but to go. With the present fashion in hats one's audience is alarm- 
ing. When you get near enough to talk you find them full of the milk 



of human kindness, astonishingly provided with odd bits of information, 
and with a fund of sentiment all waiting to be poured into the funnels of 
Foreign Policy that any lecturer provides : except that I have a suspicion 
that a benevolent view of the British Empire or any of its activities will 
run counter to so many previous lecturers that it stands little chance of 
survival. One could do far better if one were an Arab. 

Of course what is astonishing is that there should be so many females 
interested in foreign policy enough to lunch out on it: they think here 
that everything is everybody's business, unlike our narrow-minded 
belief in not bothering about jobs which someone else is paid to attend 
to : but we have some sort of an expert on some remote country in every 
family almost, and perhaps if we had not we should have to rely on 
informative luncheons. 

Today Miss W. came to tea and told me that she believed in the free- 
dom of Asiatic peoples. I said I believed in the freedom of Arab nations, 
and the White Paper principle that a nation must consent to its own 
immigration laws. Palestine, she remarked, is not a nation but slid 
away from the subject. She told me how much she regrets the imperialism 
of Mr. Churchill. 

WASHINGTON 23 December 1943 

Delighted with "Washington, hills and woods and pleasant houses, to 
find myself with very dear friends, 1 and also to have advice at hand on 
this tough job. Apart from our own division, and Mr. Butler, Isaiah 
Berlin, and Miss McCall, 2 1 have been introduced to : 

Mrs. Whitehurst, who runs all the women's clubs and thereby wields 
an instrument of incalculable and terrifying capacities. She, however, is 
all for guiding its cutting edge into the right direction, and I liked her 
warm-hearted, intelligent, not introspective. American female energy 
is increased enormously by the fact that they don't mind being middle- 
aged. She was deep in a scheme, now being carried into effect, of pro- 
viding wedding-dresses sent by the various dubs to the Service girls in 
England and far too interested in it to think of Arabs; but gave me a 
little booklet on how to run women's clubs which I am sending to the 
Brothers and hope they will write back to her. 

Mr. X I thought a stupid man so anxious to cover it up that nothing 
from outside has much chance of penetrating : his talk like a conjuror's 

1 Michael and Esther Wright at our Embassy, (Sir Michael Wright, G.C,M.G., 
Ambassador to Iraq 1954-8). 
* Then with the Ministry of Information in New York. 



patter to tide the (non) workings of his mind. He believed, he told me in a 
friendly and non-controversial way, in the freedom of India and the 
emancipation of the Kurds : it seems depressing that anything so simplified 
should be in a position to deal with the complicated East. 

Mr. L, one of the President's special advisers, came and talked in 
the evening, and asked about Palestine ; this was hard going as he is a Jew 
evidently well supplied with all Zionist ideas, and also had been in 
Palestine fifteen years ago when the fundamental friendliness of the 
humble Jews and Arabs struck him and gave him the impression that a 
change of Arab politicians would solve the whole problem. I countered 
this by pointing out that in the last fifteen years the Arab world has been 
producing a middle class which looks for outlets in the running of its own 
countries. I also emphasized the way in which Zionism has lost the great 
Jewish opportunity for influencing the Middle East. They could have 
promoted co-operation instead of exclusion, their university could have 
been Arabic and Hebrew instead of Hebrew only, and their colonies 
could have benefited Arab and Jew in equal measure. I suggested that 
this might still happen if the whole question is given a rest, and a new 
policy taken up later. This line seemed to make some impression (tran- 
sitory, I fear). His most interesting remark was that the character of our 
Mandate had been a mistake: it should have provided for 'international 
control'. I did not wish to make our talk controversial, so omitted to 
point out that this is exactly what the U.S.A. refused at the time ! 

Christmas Day 

Dearest Nigel, 

The thought of semi-public speeches fills me with a feeling only 
comparable to drowning. 

Washington has none of the hard, glittering New York splendour, 
but a lovely quality, an eighteenth-century colonial air still traceable in 
and out of its classic avenues and the hills and woods that nestle round it. 
And how lovely to breathe the cold winter sunlight and see between 
leafless trees the flat, iced surfaces of streams. 

Isaiah Berlin is here, a friend of Bish's and the best talker I have met 
since his death. 

28 December 1943 
My dear Elizabeth, 

I had a long talk with Colonel Hoskins at the State Department, back 
from London ; he tells me his impression was that no one's mind was 



made up and everyone trying to postpone a decision on Palestine. All 
pressure possible will be brought to bear in America and thence on 
Britain, but he agrees with me that the interest here is based on votes, 
so that if we stood firm there would be no eventual damage done to our 
relations with the U.S. A. ; all they want is to say to their electors that 
they have done what they could for the Jews. Far more depressing is 
what our Prime Minister has been saying about the White Paper (I have 
been hearing this from a number of people). I hate to criticize where I 
so much admire, but if it were the Archangel Gabriel I should feel this 
as a sabotaging of one's own side. Either the White Paper is our policy 
or it isn't; it has been publicly confirmed as such by Mr. Eden in the 
House, and if our representatives now weaken the only effect will be, 
and already is, to encourage Zionists and even moderates to give a great 
deal of trouble. I tried to cheer Colonel Hoskins by reminding him, that 
the opinion of everyone whose opinions in the Middle East itself have 
any weight is unanimous on the necessity of not again upsetting the 
Arabs, and reminded him that in our history it is usually the Civil Service 
that wins versus the Cabinet in the long run ; I offered to take a bet on it ; 
but it seems rather a pity that this is the light in which the American 
expert views the London situation ! 

Colonel H. was tremendously impressed by Ibn Saud; he said the 
Regent of Iraq was more appreciated in London because 'he can talk about 
hunting and he wears normal clothes', but he thought we would be 
wrong not to give first place in the Arab world to the Saudi friendship. 
At the same time I believe American experts are rather pleased to look 
upon Ibn Saud as a pet of their own, and with very little encouragement 
would think they had discovered him. 

The Wrights took me to dine at Mrs. V. Bacon's and I there Kit be- 
tween Mr. Eugene Meyer, owner of The Washington Post, and Senator 
Austin. The Senator, great fun and extremely friendly to Britain, said 
to me : * You are in a bad mess in Palestine.' It was a very good dinner, 
excellent champagne, and I said gaily, 'Oh, not really. I could settle it 
if I were a Dictator/ Til make you a Dictator,' he said: 'Now what do 
you do ?' 'I look round and settle on a principle,' said I, 'and then I don't 
wobble. And the principle is, if you agree, that people should be consulted 
about the immigrants who go into their countries/ 'Well,' said the Sen- 
ator r ' I come from Vermont and we're an independent people : I wouldn't 
quarrel with that/ 'Not with all that tea in Boston harbour/ 1 said, 'you 
couldn't, could you*' So we settled the Palestine question. 

Mr. Meyer had a French father, banker, and left the firm as a lad 


because lie wanted to make his life without too much help ; and having 
done so, and now retired, took over The Washington Post as relaxation. 
He was a charming man, full of benevolent ideals combined with a 
certain cynicism as to how human nature carries them out. The story of 
his life was so long and interesting that I never got to Palestine, but 
Michael Wright made up the leeway after coffee, and I was asked to go 
and talk to him in his office. He there told me that Dr. Brandeis years 
ago had tried to interest him in the Balfour Declaration and that he kept 
out because he thought 'there were too many Muslims about' (how 
sensible). But he was perturbed to see how the Jews who arrived in 
U.S.A. from the ghettos of Europe were without moral guidance, 
straying into ways of crime, and he had been interested in Palestine as a 
means of regeneration and an ideal for them to focus on. He looked 
pained and startled when I remarked that they were rapidly deviating 
into ways of crime in Palestine also and was very anxious to see the Stern 
Gang document of which I have some extracts. 

My next party was a pleasant affair at the Summerscales where we 
were all orientalists together except for some journalists who asked me 
to explain the Middle East 'in two minutes'. Mr. N., very influential in 
the Press here, with a pretty round little dark wife, listened till he could 
bear it no longer and then came up and buried me in the * atrocities' of 
the Colonial Office. He became so venomous about the Arabs that 
nothing I could have said could have worked more in their favour and I 
was sorry the audience were converted already. He came up after to say 
good-bye in the friendliest manner and said we must meet again as we 
had only * scratched the surface* ; however I feel that scratching is rather 
a waste of time. 

Mr. Norman Walker was sent out on a survey of lease-lend in the 
Middle East. He is a business man and anxious for friendly co-operation, 
but came back with so gloomy a view of the rivalries and difficulties 
among all except the people at tie top that he seemed inclined to advise 
against lease-lend in those regions altogether. He is the only American I 
have met so far who fears that the U.S.A. may be left in the cold by a 
Russo-British friendship if anti-British feeling here continues on its way. 
He had not entered into Palestine affairs, but was interested in the possible 
cause of friction there might be for America and Britain, and will do all he 
can among his business friends to press the points we wish. 

Among the orientalists at the Summerscales was Mr. Ireland, very 
able, of the State Department, also very perturbed about our Prime 
Minister and his supposed saying to Weizmann that though 'nothing can 


be done now tie would get all he wanted after the war'. I find everyone 
who is on our side badly in need of reassurance on this score. 

Again I had to give the same assurance to Dr. Cleland and the rest of the 
Middle East division of the O.W.I., with whom I had a long talk 
pointing out that our Prime Ministers do not press their views against the 
advice of all their Government departments. There is such friendly 
feeling both in the O. W.L and the State Department. They all seem alert, 

intelligent, and refreshingly constructive, though kept in by Mr. who 

sits on top of them like a cork. 

They all agree that to base our explanations on a democratic theory of 
consent and no coercion is to find the ears of the Americans, and so I will 
just go ahead, like Paganini, on the one string, and if my accounts of con- 
versations become incredibly monotonous you must consider that it is 
nothing to the dreariness of having to say the same thing over and over 

We dined with the Halifaxes 1 and I sat next to Mr. Stimson, a rock-like 
and benevolent old man who might have stepped out of the Mayflower, so 
shining was he in integrity. I regretted sadly that I could not enjoy 
myself and talk of this and that but led inexorably to Palestine. My 
efforts at basing ourselves on the well-worn principles failed, however, 
for Mr. Stimson said that in the course of a long life he had found that 
principles caused more trouble than anything else and pointed out to me 
how the French and British, divided only by the Channel, flourish the 
most opposite principles with equal feelings towards each other's inferi- 
ority. I couldn't agree more, which shows how unadapted I am for this 
ghastly job of propaganda. Whatever concessions Mr. Stimson may have 
made to Zionists, they were certainly not inspired by affection: he told 
me in a heartfelt way that I little knew them if I thought one could subdue 
them by being firm. On our standing by our present policy he said, *it 
would not seriously ruffle the relations of our Governments, but it would 
cause a great many pin-pricks to the Secretary of War (himself).' I said 
it would cause pricks with things much sharper than pins in Arabia if we 
didn't (stand by our policy), at which he laughed and agreed, 

2 January 1944 

Mr. Y. of the State Department came to see, and charmed, me. It was 
he who in 1919 was breakfasting when Weizmann banged his fist on the 
table and said (of Palestine) that * unless they give it me I will break the 

1 Then British Ambassador in Washington. 



British Empire'. I am pleased to have tracked this elusive story at last. 
He knows a great deal of what went on behind the scenes at the end of the 
First World War almost more than actually happened. Even when facts 
are uncertain, it does not alter their influence if the government depart- 
ments of a country believe them ! 

I have been meeting various women journalists who all make one fed as 
if one's mental processes were very slow. They go about with pencil and 
pad among blood and tears and revolutions, pinning them down as if they 
were butterflies with an innocent disarming interest. Miss F. from 
Nebraska on one side and Mrs. C. on the other took the Middle East 
down in short snappy sentences and I hear there is something in The New 
York Times and am waiting rather nervously to know what has come out 
of it all. Mrs. C., I think, wished to talk about brutal imperialism but I 
got in first and described a lunch at the Emir Abdullah's where I sat next 
to his Negro prime minister who disapproved of Western women 
walking in shorts down the public streets : she went away saying that the 
Arabs were much more democratic than she thought them. 

I met the French journalist ' Pertinax' at Walter Lippmann's 1 party and 
asked him how he liked America. ' A desert, ' he said. ' They are lost, not 
in space but in time/ He blew off his finger-tips into the outer darkness. 
'They detest us all, but you British more, because they feel themselves 
inferior. Ce n' 'est pas une civilisation' 'But the future,' said I. 'They may 
be growing into a civilisation. How long do you think it will take ?' 'I 
don't know five hundred years perhaps. It is of no interest.' He 
shrugged his shoulders, lifted his chin and dismissed the whole continent. 

6 January 1944 

I am going to write you a prophecy of what will happen if we, to 
placate the Zionists and by altering the White Paper, arouse the Arabs. 
When the election here is over and the interest in Saudi Arabia has 
increased the Americans will gradually begin to pour obloquy upon us as 
the supporters of a Fascist regime in Palestine and the oppressors of the 
free and democratic peoples. To gain a very dubious advantage of a few 
months, we will have forged the ideal weapon for a time when U.S.A. 
interests may conflict with ours in Arabia. 

I saw X. in his office and though not thinking him any more intel- 
ligent than before, was touched by his friendliness. He, too, like all his 
department, was subdued by the remarks of our Prime Minister and asked 
me how I explained the Zionist fervour among our public men. I said 
i Of The New York Herald Tribune. 



1 the Bible'. ' Only that ? * he asked. He told me his admiration for British 
colonial methods, a rare and welcome note in this land. He had been 
thoroughly depressed by Colonel Hoskins's report of London, so I went 
to the Colonel's office again and did what I could to cheer him as to the 
eventual firmness of our Government I also told him about Mr. 
Stimson's remarks, which pleased him very much as showing him a good 
deal less Zionist at heart than they had thought, and then went on to dine 
with the Henry Fields, where we were able to relax into the comparatively 
peaceful atmosphere of the Stone Age. 

On Tuesday I met fourteen ladies at the Iraqi Ambassadress's with a 
few Americans obviously a little at sea on finding Palestinian, Persian, 
Iraqi and Turkish females so very like themselves even the slight loudness 
in dress struck a familiar note. The Ali Jaudats are doing well and she 
managed her parry splendidly; everyone I have heard speaks well of 

Mr. Ireland has been telling me he thinks there are no moderate Jews 
here : I disagree and think that it is only our indecision which makes even 
moderates think that pressure may pay. A telegram to the Embassy 
advises us to keep things *as tranquil as possible' : this effort was made by 
King Canute on the sea-shore in the same sort of circumstances many 
years ago, with very little effect, and I would much rather have seen a 
recommendation to ' stand firm till the tide turns'. 

I called on Isaiah Berlin who always leads into the most beguiling 
by-paths of conversation and makes one late for meals (but it is worth it), 
and in the afternoon I caught the train for Chicago. If I have done any 
good work in Washington it is chiefly through the help of Michael and 
Esther Wright: this game is like that of a conjuror, and it needs two or 
more to work together if any rabbits are to come out of the hat. Michael 
has spent his time bringing useful people and asking useful questions to 
get them going. I am sure one's success anywhere here will depend on 
whether one finds people to take this trouble to make the proper setting. 

Train to CHICAGO 6 January 
My dearest Jock, 

Washington was one of the pleasantest cities like a huge village 
losing itself in green avenues (now brown). The Wrights live just above 
a creek running full of ice in a valley with a zoo arranged at one end 
white wolves and grey foxes and bears. My only time off was a walk 
every fine day in the crisp shining air, with the pale colours of winter all 
about and the Shoreham Hotel like that Lhassa palace towering above. I 


am now in the Chicago train, still surrounded by a mass of paper that is 
slowly rising up and burying me. So that it is very immoral to be 
writing to you just for pleasure ! But I have composed so many minutes 
on Zionism that I deserve a rest. It is hard to make the Arab popular but 
even harder to popularize the English. I don't honestly think this is our 
fault: it is largely puzzled jealousy because this country's business morality 
can't understand that we combine a different outlook with success. It is a 
pity. There is no reason in the world why we could not work together 
for the good of everyone including ourselves ; but I don't believe America 
yet sees that co-operation is better than competition, and we shall probably 
eventually go hand in hand with Russia while the U.S.A. wonders how 
her slick methods have failed her. There is a drop in temperature when- 
ever I mention loyalty of Canadians or South Africans. If it weren't for 
this feeling, so widespread, I should enjoy myself more, and I do love the 
country as soon as I come on young friendly people keen on the fighting or 
good tough old boys with Puritan ancestors. I sat next Mr. Stimson and he 
was lamenting the fact that the war was going to go over his country 
without coming near enough to teach it. 



Chicago to Canada 

CHICAGO p January 1944 
My dear Elizabeth, 

Chicago gave me a snowstorm and this morning I walked for an hour 
on the crisp surface in a world which must be parks and sheets of water in 
summer: Greek temples scattered about and skyscrapers in the back- 
ground, and the lake with blocks of ice making a white horizon. Inside 
the hotel it is like the Balkans grown prosperous square, squat females 
with furs and loud cordial voices telling everybody's business in the 
lounge. It is fun only appalling to think that these are the people who 
are to have a hand in the delicate and subtle East. 

A Mrs. B. rang up and said she was 'IntellecturaT and is coming to 
call. I think I am going to enjoy the Middle West. 

Orientalists are (nearly) always happy together and I had a delightful 
morning with Dr. Wilson and Dr. Olmstead at the University, looking on 
what might have been an Oxford quad. Dr. Olmstead is completely 
scholasticized (if there is such a word) and his eye gleams over potsherds 
and the inventing of an alphabet but not over minor historical upheavals 
like the present war: but Dr. Wilson was in the State Department last 
year and is as worried over his Government and the Zionists as we are 
over ours. 

12 January 1944 

The first lecture went off quite smoothly. I recited a Wordsworth 
sonnet and no one batted an eyelid. A light on what is thought of lecture 
tours was thrown by a very juvenile flapper reporter who came up and 
explained that they had sent only her as they 'thought it was just a tour. 
But this is your first lecture in this country, so you might be news, 
mightn't you, Miss Stark?' 

The intellectual Mrs. B. turned out to be an ardently Church of 
England charming old lady, full of vigour. She and the University are a 
sort of oasis. The pleasure of conversation is that of exploring you hope 



to get a glimpse of the shy and secret creature, the human being you are 
talking to : you get it in the poorest Arab tent or among the murderers of 
Luristan but how rarely here! The voice I am hearing in the hotel 
lounge at the moment is saying: 'I go at eleven o'clock and sit in that 
picture till three every day/ They talk, they are pleasantly mannered, 
most friendly, they say 'how interesting', and feel it too, they have 
collected some new facts for the magpie nest of their mind but they get 
up and turn you off as it might be a tap, with no human penetration. Yet 
many people tell me, and I am noticing it myself, how more adventurous 
and alive the women here are than the men, and I toy with the theory that on 
this deathly road of standardization the female element is more refractory 
and will keep a touch of singularity long after all their husbands are 
moulded exactly alike. I like their adventurous quality when I find it 
as of Goths revelling in the un-understood magnificence of a conquered 
world : people tossed here by all sorts of poverties and dangers : no wonder 
that a material universe is all that is needed for their dreams. But what 
does seem wrong is that there is so little for those that grope after some- 
thing further. There was a force which in a few generations turned the 
Goths towards masterpieces like Ravenna: and I don't believe big business 
will ever provide a motive power of this kind. A girl at dinner last night 
told me that the religion she belongs to is called Ethical Culture. 

21 January 1944 

I don't know what to do about these newspaper notices : the plainer I 
tell it the more highly coloured it comes out. And I begin to get letters 
from Zionists almost inarticulate with fury. It makes me long for private 
life with a passionate longing. 

I like the journalists here : they are anxious to know things and look at 
them with an eye for the general idea. On the Palestine question they are 
not only fair, but keen to get it known. If we did change our policy on the 
White Paper, it would be regrettable if the American newspaper men 
remembered my eloquence and began to write about coercion on their 
own s If there is any chance of this I hope you would send me a wire to 
recall me as soon as you knew of it, and stop my talking further ! 

The outstanding events of Wednesday and today were meals with 
Zionists, shepherded by Dr. Olmstead, who got Rabbi Fox to lunch, one 
of the most influential Jews here and moderate, and we had a great argu- 
ment with the usual dead-wall at the end; but it does seem to have roused 
a certain disturbance in his mind and he afterwards asked Dr. Olmstead 
to talk on die subject to a gathering of Jews. The Covenant Club manages 



to combine an atmosphere of modernity, wealth, and oriental bazaar. 
The distressing thing is that I like the Jews I meet here and have to argue 
with, almost better than anyone else I see, and there was a most disarming 
mixture of sharpness, kindness and humour about the Rabbi. But the 
little man on my right made me long for a pet pogrom of my own before 
we were through the soup. He had one of those mouths that you are afraid 
are going to spit out their teeth, and used it almost exclusively against the 
Colonial Office. I thought I made no headway, but I may have done, for 
the Rabbi patted me affectionately on the arm as we parted. As for the 
little Horror, instead of good-bye I said to him that I regretted he was so 
shockingly anti-British, and it seemed to cause him the greatest surprise 
and chagrin. I believe they are delirious and don't know how objection- 
able they are. The others were nice university people and would not be 
extreme if one could tdl them the facts at leisure. They called in a 
Judge for dessert, and I left them listening to Dr. Olmstead who has the 
great art of involving himself in so many learned qualifications that no one 
knows which side he is on till the end, when he turns out Arab to the 
core. Rabbi Fox, before we parted, said that he thought Mr. Roosevelt 
would ' whisper a word or two to Churchill and he'll be afraid to say no ' ; 
unfortunately we reached our destination before I could refute this 

The consul here gave a dinner at which an enormous rubicund 
shipping director told me he was founding a Moravian church, and we all 
sang temperance hymns in broken American. It was a peculiar evening, 
very matey. 

I must bring this rigmarole to a stop. I write at the end of the day and 
no time to revise, so it may contain all sorts of undesirable things. 

Mr. G. has been studying lists of the people here who wish to return 
to their countries after the war; a few central Europeans, all the French, 
all die Italians, and almost all the British. The call of civilization is very 
strong, considering what they go back to. I wonder if it is the * organizing* 
of women that makes the blackness here ? the one half of the human 
race that we still consider as believing in its duties rather than its rights, as 
being ready for self-sacrifice rather than self-advancement, as having 
leisure for other people in its life and a mind sufficiently unpruned to be 
individual here it is canalized into something hard, bright, competent, 
quite unendurable, much more intelligent than its average man, and I 
believe unhappy; or perhaps it just seems to me impossible that it can be 
happy. I only hope we won't think of 'organizing' women in Europe. 
The Eft girl said to me today : * Hive you seen the darling review about you 


in. the paper ?' She is such a pretty girl: you would think she ought to 
know what darling should or shouldn't be used for. 

There are exceptions however. I was lunched by a dozen or so 
women journalists who listened to harim stories and were so cordial that I 
came away with very warm feelings and the hope that they may yet 
escape their own efficiency. On the other hand, I had a ghastly evening 
with Miss P. o Collier's magazine. She came all the way from New York 
to interview me. An interview with Collier's seems almost equivalent to 
an audience with the Pope. Miss P. thought so anyway. She began by 
being disappointed because I refused to dine anywhere except quietly in 
my hotel where she drank three old-fashioneds and divided me into para- 
graphs. After dinner she produced a bouncing young photographer and 
they spent four hours over me, telling me between whiles what they 
thought of British rule in India. I got so angry. I detested Miss P ; if she 
wanted to drink I felt she could do so in New York. She had a cold, 
poor thing, and evidently attributed to that and to the three old-fashioneds 
the difficulty she had in understanding that I travel for pleasure. Her 
evening was wasted; and so was mine. 

28 January 1944 

I have been to Ann Arbor (Michigan University) to lecture. Dr. 
Ettinghausen had asked me a gentle, charming man, unhappy both as a 
German and a Jew. He teaches Islamic art and I had met him in London. 
He did things so well. I spent the morning talking to his class of Persian 
students, and lunched with the head of the University and family. They 
had all been in Egypt and our manners there had made them very anti- 
British, but the Doctor was invited to England kst year and told me he 
came back with altered views. Next morning I visited their house and the 
chill seemed to have vanished ; with the rest it did not exist they were all 
professors and charming friendly people. In the evening we had a 
symposium and dealt with Palestine ; and in the afternoon I met Leland 
Stowe, the correspondent, whom I thought full of understanding. I talked 
to him about the vital danger of competition between us in the Middle 
East and said frankly that as far as I could see we were genuinely anxious 
to co-operate, and America about seventy per cent out for competition. 
He was interested and eager to use his influence to counteract. I thought 
him honest, thoughtful and fair. He has upset his audiences by lecturing 
on China and saying that the Chinese are behaving quite dreadfully, which 
is almost as much a heresy as to say that Gandhi and Nehru are not 


Do you think, my dear Elizabeth, that after all this I could be given a 
little relaxation and allowed to do something I enjoy, for instance among 
the Italian guerrillas > 

I am now sitting in The Indian Chief, all shining aluminium or steel 
with carriages called by Indian and romantic names, filled with white- 
suited servants offering abundant food to obviously wealthy passengers on 
their way to California. The middle West is slipping by; as one goes 
through the litde towns their straight streets appear like avenues inter- 
secting a chess board, lined pleasantly with trees ; one looks down their 
whole length and sees them parked solidly from end to end with cars. 
The country is not a bit flat when you think of flatness in terms of the 
Indian plains there is an undulation, a long low ridge of leafless trees 
here and there, or shoots of maize-sticks long harvested shining in the sun. 
There is an air of space, big careless patches left to their natural grasses ; 
one cannot help feeling there is room here for far more influx than in 
poor tiny Palestine ! And just now a sudden dip between ridges and here 
is the Mississippi, wider than anything I have seen except the Indus, and 
carrying a slush of melting ice on its blue water. I feel extremely happy 
partly because of the pleasant bigness and variety of the world, but also 
because for a whole fortnight I shall be able to talk about what I like and 
not bother about what I say and not lecture to anyone. I can't help feeling 
that this revolt, which almost every Englishman I see develops out here, is 
largely due to our atrocious task: to go round apologising as we do for 
being in the war, for being in India, for running the East, for supporting 
the morale of all the U.S.A., for being courageous, persevering and poor 
and better than they are it gets everyone down. Mr. H. came and un- 
burdened himself and my feelings are as nothing compared to his. But if 
we did not have to follow this bogus humility, we would be able to enjoy 
the good-humoured nice manners which everyone here has spon- 
taneously, and their friendly curiosity (which I do enjoy), and their 
obvious pleasure when no one suggests the existence of a world less easy 
than their own. 

PS. The train is now sliding through New Mexico which looks like 
the uplands of Luristan only less inhabited and I did think I should have 
a day of peace. But I was attacked by a Zionist over lunch. He opened 
nicely, saying he believed in the British virtues and I began to expand and 
relax until he added 'all except the Colonial Office', and then of course I 
knew what was coming. He is quite important in the Hebrew University 
and told me that he cares more for Zionism than for anything in life. I 
told him he had better save it from its present disastrous path and asked if 


he really wished to see it pushed in at the point of the bayonet. No, he 
said, force must not be used: *all the C.O need do is to be friendly and 
just !' Reason was of no avail. I begin to have a sort of affection for the 
Colonial Office, as one has for an ugly baby that nobody loves. 

cjo Mrs Beach, LOS ANGELES 31 January 

I am now in a haven of quiet on a hillside, with Los Angeles twinkling 
harmlessly below ; a decent house with old things, beautiful and shabby 
and my hosts with two boys ready to be * drafted', who are wearing their 
old clothes and are glad that there is little butter. Oh my, what a relief! 

9 February 1944 
My dear Edwin [Ker], 

Do you hate typewritten letters ? I have been lent this instrument and 
am playing with it, and I was going in any case to take this leisure my 
first in weeks to tell you how good I thought your Italian poem. I am 
happy in being able to like people without respecting them and it doesn't 
worry me to realise that Italy has no public virtues. I am getting a little 
tired of all things public, virtues included. What I want is to go and fight 
among guerrillas, and not worry whether or no American soldiers are 
going to vote. 

There is a valley here leading between clefts of green hills to the city, a 
landscape like that story of Robert Louis Stevenson's Will o 9 the Mill, 
lovely sunsets, and scrubby hills for walking owned by a Movie Magnate 
and wired against walkers a wonderfully big country as everybody says, 
but so is Asia and I like Asia better. 

11 February 
Dearest Pam, 

I long for Poverty and Peace, not so much the laying down of weapons, 
but the peace of people who know through the surface of the world the 
ties that bind them. I am glad to have come out here, for I shall never 
more feel the slightest doubt as to the relative worth of our values. The 
Greeks said that the elements of art are terror and wonder : you can't have 
any life worth living without that background and your life's work to 
turn it into the understanding of love. I seem to be degenerating into a 
sermon, but so would you if you were here. As for freedom it is a 
shallow equality. I remember once going to look for a book on the 
Hadhrarnaut in a little dummy shop in Cairo : an old beggar, in tatters, 
was sitting in a corner and broke into the conversation by saying that what 



I wanted was The Meadows of Gold by Maqrizi a medieval author as it 
might be Marco Polo. We talked this over and parted friends, more free 
and more equal than the common possession of motor cars could ever 
make us. Yet in Chicago the skyscrapers are as beautiful as icicles when 
the sun and the light pky about with them. If you look at it, winding 
beside the ice-bound waters of its lake, and see its blocks and towers in the 
sunset, it is a very exciting spectacle. All the same I was glad to come 
away into this human sort of an atmosphere, and have had a quiet happy 
spell in the room where my mother spent her last year and her little odds 
and ends are still about. I can't think of her as very far away. 
The work has gone pretty well, I believe. 

11 February 1944 

My dear Elizabeth, 

I walked back into the arena kst night by lecturing to the California 
Technological Institute in Pasadena. The president is a world authority 
on cosmic rays, sufficiently remote to give him a carefree and happy 
expression. He invited us to a great dinner of fourteen people, all ex- 
tremely friendly rich people leading comfortable lives in places like 
Santa Barbara, with beautifiilly open minds even on things like India. I 
had a full audience of two hundred and fifty or so and talked about Aden 
and the Yemen, and ended with the White Paper after which a heckler 
arose, quivering with eloquence and fury. 'If the Arabs were so friendly,' 
he said, *why didn't Egypt fight when invaded by the Italians?' I 
happened to know this answer, and explained our shortage of equipment 
and how what we required of Egypt were the dull things guarding, 
etc., which they could do with what they had, and not actual fighting 
which would have meant supplying them with what we could not spare; 
the military therefore discouraged any thought of their entering more 
actively into the war. * And what about Iraq ?' said the heckler. 'That,' I 
explained, 'was a military revolt against their own Government. It did 
not include the majority of the country (if it had we could not have 
quelled it with two battalions) and as soon as Nuri Pasha was back he 
asked to enter the war on our side. He was again discouraged by our own 
military I imagine because of the difficulty of providing sufficient air- 
craft/ My audience now evidently looked on the heckler as liquidated 
but he stood up bravely and made a small oration saying that many 
people call our White Paper a 'black paper', and urged die audience to 
read what Mr. Churchill himself said about it, I said the answer to this was 
very short: when Mr* Churchill made that speech, he was in Opposition. 


Everybody laughed. I said to Dr. Millikin afterwards that the heckler 
seemed to have been silenced. ' Silenced ? ' said he. * He died. 9 I, of course, 
felt extremely elated as it has never happened to me before to make a 
Zionist stop talking. 

I am asked here to hand in the detailed summaries of all my speeches to 
be preserved, strangely enough, by the Department of Justice an awful 
scale in which to weigh one's casual words. 

A wonderfully restful week and I feel stronger again though with all 
my mother's things and papers to go through. My hostess is charming, 
New England descendant from Puritans, her conscience mitigated by 
goodness and humour one of the nicest human beings in this world. 

1$ February 1944 
My dear Chief, 1 

Your letter came across all the continents bringing more pleasure than I 
can say, like a ride in the early Delhi morning (without the possibility of 
falling off) ; it made me feel as the Arabs do when you tell them it is a 
fine day: 'And you are the fineness of the day,' they say. 

1 was going to write in any case, for Allenby* reached me just as I was 
leaving Chicago, and I read him across New Mexico and Arizona and 
found him as good as I remembered. There is more of yourself in it, and 
it makes a better book than the first at least I feel it so. 

'Equality is not enough' would be my title for a book on America 
(a thing I never mean to write. I am passionately longing to get away to 
any little town of Greece, Italy or England, however poor). Hollywood, 
however, has a gaiety you feel it enjoys spending its money as well as 
making it, and it is new enough to show, here and there, people who still 
have a trace of the adventure that brought them West in their youth. 
There is a poem about this West by Benet that I think you would like : 

The iron in the loadstone of the breast, 
Never to be forgotten nor possessed. 
the mystery of exploration? 

Lord Halifax in Washington told me they used to try to get to Simla 
in time to give one grand banquet with gold plates and bunches of 
rhododendron all down the table. I hope you will go and see the rhodo- 
dendrons against the Dalai Lama's snowy land. Some day I should like 
to ride slowly up the banks of Indus, beginning where the bridge of boats 

1 Eeld-Marshal Lord Wavell, then Viceroy of India. 

2 A. P. Wavell, Allenfy (Harrap, 1946). 



goes into Baluchistan, and going on till it gets too cold. It would be fun to 
reach you again while you are all there who knows ? I feel like a dis- 
couraged David travelling across this land with one Goliath after another 
to meet and only a small packet of slingstones which H.M.G. perpetually 
begs one not to use : and every American seems to think himself born with 
a capacity to govern India ; you would be surprised. 

20 February 1944 
My dear Elizabeth, 

I have a whole week's diary to write and had better begin at the 
beginning with a speech at a Round Table which has been lunching on 
Mondays for the last twenty-four years : they are business men, with a 
judge or two among them. They had planned to form a Rotary Club, but 
then enjoyed their informal friendly meetings so much more that they 
decided not to change, and had never had a woman guest except my 
mother. In this business atmosphere, far from being anti-Semitic, I found 
I had to stand up for Jews and their doings; there was a virulent feeling 
against them, the same fear of encroachment which lies at the root of 
Palestine. The whole trouble of the Jewish question all over the world 
could be solved if Moses descended with an eleventh commandment for 
every Jew to share profits with a gentile partner ! 

On Wednesday I had to address young soldiers being trained for over- 
seas a pleasant and refreshing audience of about fifty, being taught (at 
least in part) by a white-haired, energetic female geographer. The hand 
that rocks the cradle goes on rocking indefinitely in all sorts of unexpected 
places! However this is a digression and here is another for I am 
writing in the train and the Pacific Ocean has just come into sight for the 
first time in my life very exciting, and Japan across the water: the hills 
are green and round, rolling like the waves of a larger age than ours, and 
the Sierras are behind, powdered with snow. 

But to go back to my day with the students. They were in California 
University, just beyond the houses and film-star gardens in Beverly 
Hills, in a college built with very good taste on an Italian Renaissance 
model in the most pleasant country of foot-hills all green now in the 
spring. As they were all soldiers I told them mostly the military story o 
the Middle East : the fearful odds in numbers and equipment the first two 
years ; the fact that Weygand and his army had been counted on to keep 
that front, and how General Wavell, when the news was brought that he 
was left in charge alone said, 'Well, I can't help it,' and finished the last 
two holes of the game of golf he was playing. I told them of the war in the 

o [197] 


Red Sea, and the charge of the Black Watch in Somaliland uphill, pushing 
back eight times their number ; and how the papers in England were so 
pleased because we lost only two guns, never mentioning that there were 
only four to lose. I told them how I thought the turning-point in the 
Middle East was the battle of Crete which lasted eighteen days when the 
Germans expected to end it in two ; and how the loss of their big air 
transports prevented the sending of troops to assist in the Iraq rebellion, 
and so enabled us to retake the country with the two battalions which was 
all that we could spare. I then went on to point out that, with our shor- 
tage of manpower, the policing of the Arab world would have been 
beyond our strength, and that therefore its friendly neutrality was of first 
importance in preserving the bridge of the Middle East; and gave the 
example of Palestine, where the Arabs spontaneously stopped their 
guerrillas so that in jipjp I had to drive through behind an armoured car 
and in 1940 could go about in my own little car unescorted. Quite a 
number of the boys came up after and asked questions, and it was alto- 
gether a charming audience. At lunch I met the Dean and the Faculty, and 
enjoyed the peaceful academic atmosphere of remoteness, and drove back 
through the sunshine to the endless Hollywood Boulevard, the longest in 
the world and sordid all its length. Above it is a cemetery where you can 
pay to have mechanical canaries sing through the funeral services, and 
luckily no one asked me what I thought of that. 

I met two Yorkshiremen one married to an American and the other 
the regular sort of retired English colonel whom Americans expect. He 
told me he came here as a young man because someone sent him advertise- 
ments of fruit farming ; left everything to join up in the First World War 
only to find he was over-age and no amount of lying did any good. So he 
came back, but managed to get taken on a year later and fought in France. 
This war, his son is in the Navy and he wants to get back to England, but 
can't get a passage and so decided to fill in time by helping in an aircraft 
factory as a steel cutter ; he got in by saying he was sixty-five instead of 
seventy-six but as he explained in a loud voice you have to be very 
thorough and forge all the dates from birth certificates to passport. The 
Los Angeles ladies were hanging about us in groups, listening entranced, 
while he asked whether I knew So-and-so 'nice fellow, a gentleman 
you don't always find them so in that service' no datnned Equality for 
him. He then went on to reminiscences about the boat-race. I was 
delighted, with a feeling of fresh air about the conversation; what was 
more surprising was the warmth with which the Americans spoke of him. 
I suppose that having created a type, they are pleased when they see us 



sometimes embodying what they expect. 'He is British, 9 said my hostess, 
and he goes down better than many who try harder to please. 

I ended my day with a visit to a Hollywood studio in which Merle 
Oberon was swooning in the arms of a romantic Chopin surrounded by 
the eyes of the lenses and a tough-looking crowd of advisers. 

On Friday I lunched with an engaging young radio commentator who 
asked what the Arabs would do if Pakistan caused a Hindu-Muslim war. 
I thought they would give sympathy and no more and might ask advice 
in London first. 'In that case,* said he, 'one knows what would happen. 
They would get an evasive reply/ 

He was very concerned over the Anglo-American oil rivalry * entirely 
America's fault/ I said rather brutally, 'if it comes to competition instead 
of partnership. Our business world is no doubt equally bad, but our civil 
service is far less under its thumb and therefore avoids the " slick methods" 
which too often are put in the place of American statesmanship. To keep 
a pipe-line going across tribal desert is an affair of experience and careful 
handling, and they would need and get our help : even when the U.S.A. 
first got the Bahrein concession, the British political reaction was one of 
pleasure at finding America at last with an inducement to be interested in 
Arab affairs.' Mr. L. agreed with all this and said he would do all he 
could to prevent oil-quarrels, which he looks upon as the gravest threat 
to our relations. 

There were two Mexican guests, father and son, at this luncheon, who 
came up afterwards with most genuine friendliness, talking about our 
civilization as if it were a jewel with an ardour pleasant to me but 
surprising to my hosts. 

That was the end of my labours in Los Angeles and I came away feeling 
as I felt in Chicago only more so: the groundwork of public opinion is 
open-minded and anxious to be fair; the people who give the news are 
ready to give it fairly; there is no universal prejudice, as there is against 
the British: the power one is up against is far more secret and concen- 
trated and I should expect to find it among the politicians (at a guess). 
Mr. L. said it was far too strong to be prevailed against but admitted that 
its strength might be not nearly so great after the election. 

Apropos of the election, there was quite a ripple over die English 
Church newspaper that offered its good wishes for Roosevelt. People 
talked of interference. I was delighted and agreed heartily that inter- 
ference is damnable; and added how strongly I fed this when every 
whipper-snapper I meet tells me how to deal with India. They take this 
very nicely, and seem to see the connection for the first time. 



I am now going through the most lovely country, with little houses in 
orchards sitting by themselves, and hills of green velvet with bits of wood 
on their slopes. If California had been in the middle, and the Middle 
West on this far side, I don't believe anyone would have bothered to come 
so far. The train is called Daylight, and has big windows and is painted 
bright orange ; it has an immense streamlined engine like a horse of the 
Apocalypse and its only drawback, the radio, is just telling me that we are 
going round the sharpest horsehoe bend in the world. 

SAN FRANCISCO 27 February 1944 

This most beautiful of bays has a Golden Gate opening on the sunset, 
spanned by a spiderweb of bridges that seem a part of the mists of the 
morning. A pity Turner never painted it. 

The Zionists here seem to be more conscious of the danger of my visit 
than anything I have met before. They shadow me persistently, and when 
I lectured to the Association of Women Voters there was one solitary 
man, blond and with the look of a rather obstinate rabbit, who bravely 
explained his existence by saying that he represented the Society for the 
Abrogation of the White Paper. He was relying with confidence on 
Churchill's and- White Paper speech, which he read out in full when the 
time came. I am now fairly expert at dealing with it, and remarked that 
'political men often speak differently when in opposition: no need to 
elaborate in an election year* and then asked if Mr. Churchill had made 
any statement of the kind since he became Prime Minister. 'No', said the 
young man, rather annoyed, and left the room whereupon a woman 
took up the cudgels and said the Zionists were doing wonderful things 
for the Arabs giving hospitals, etc. I did not challenge, but told her this 
seemed to me the right way of dealing with the problem, and if they 
continued and eschewed the use offeree they would probably get good 
results in time: she looked as if she could have killed me and a third 
champion now said that Palestine was the only place the refugees could 
go to. 'Is there nowhere else?' I asked. 'No' (rashly). 'No room in this 
country ? ' 'The immigration laws are against it.' 'That is what the Pales- 
tinian knows,' I remarked, 'and would also like a voice in his own immi- 
gration laws.' This was the end of the controversial matter, and I may say 
that I never begin any of it of my own accord ; but of course Palestine, the 
White Paper and Oil are inevitable questions and I think the time is 
coining when H.M.G. will have to make up its mind whether or not it is 
going to stand behind its own White Paper. We have suffered very much 
by not being articulate about it. This comes out in almost every talk. 



The Council of Churches for instance I was told by the vice-president 
would certainly not have taken its stand if the facts as I explained them had 
been known. 

As for Oil the Fishers (ELM/s Consul here) asked an English Shell 
magnate to dine, who told me that business is business and my hopes for 
co-operation mere Utopia. I said I was thinking of it not as being more 
Christian but as being better business and ended by telling him that he 
depressed me, for I knew American business men to be worse than ours 
and he was already so dreadfully bad. He laughed, and I think was just 
taking the other side for fun. But the oil question has come up again 
twice and each time the Americans have taken it as an axiom that we 
would all be ' out-smarting' each other. It is no good denying this on our 
side; they wouldn't believe one; but I did point out that co-operation in 
Arabia does more than halve the expenses ! I said (at the luncheon-party) 
that if there was to be cut-throat competition in the oil-fields it would be 
entirely the Americans 9 fault. To lay down a pipe-line through Arab 
country meant the setting up of a delicate machine with a huge back- 
ground of knowledge, personal prestige and goodwill if it was to operate 
without the equivalent of a military occupation : so that obviously it would 
be the worst manners, as well as dangerous to themselves, if oil companies 
were to consider such a thing without talking it over with the British 
who have so many ties and interests in those lands. The newspaper men 
present said 'presumably America has her oil-men who give reliable 
appreciations to the Government'. I said, 'if that is so, the U.S.A. are far 
more fortunate than we are : I should hate to think that our Government 
took its political ideas on Arabia from the oil-men who are almost sure to be 
biased.' I was relieved afterwards to be told by our people that I had done 
well to speak as strongly as I did : I feel that if there is going to be friction, 
it is advisable to put our case forcibly before people's minds are hardened. 

I feel about my speeches as Louis XIV did about the partridges. 

In the evening Miss B, from the Consulate took me across the bay to 
Berkeley University to lecture on the Yemen all uncontroversial and 
encouraging except for two young females who came up without a trace 
of Victorian modesty and said they wished to challenge my statements 
about Arab women. Had they been in Arabia? No, but they had 
read books about the East in general. By this time there was a chorus of 
people telling them to stop talking, but they stood firm. 'We have not 
travelled, 'they said; 'but we read authoritative statements, and our point 
of view is therefore more objective than yours' : with which Parthian shot 
they went off, silenced but not crushed by general disapproval. 



I reckon I was actually talking for twelve hours on Friday, beginning 
with an interview and ending with the most useful meeting of all when I 
dined with a gathering of moderate non-Zionist Jews, and found them 
the keenest people I have met here and most aware of the dangers of the 
whole question, though with the usual absence of any idea on how to do 
something about it. The Jews are out after ideas more than most people, 
and I like them so much that it is a pleasure when one can meet on the 
same side. These had all travelled and knew the Arab world and its 
menace. They told me that my coming had caused a flutter among the 
Zionists, who count upon no one's knowing the facts, and who also know 
that most speakers by the time they reach California are on the verge of a 
breakdown. I should be over the verge but for the kindness of my pause 
in Los Angeles and the thought of the few days quiet ahead of me in 
Canada; but I shall have to take a bit of real leave in England if possible, 
for I do feel very tired. It gives one a sort of depression to be always 
struggling with people who try to twist words and facts out of their 
legitimate paths. 

I was now across the Canadian border. Already, as one came up 
from San Francisco, there was a pioneering touch about the land; 
the miniature townships stood in clearings with their woods still 
about them and sunburnt farmer-people talked of hiking or fishing 
as they got in and out of the train. After a night on the boat from 
Seattle, I reached Victoria on a grey English morning and saw 
people walking in tweeds ; I took a stroll in the park before lunch 
and two shabby old ladies had trotted out there to look at the 
pheasants with no useful educational object, but merely for fun. 
I felt at home. One must come up into Canada from the south to 
realize how great is the difference made by the border. 

VANCOUVER 3 March 1944 
My dear Elizabeth, 

I spent the afternoon sleeping like the dead till it was time for the 
International Affairs at their club an audience without any of that 
awful opening of beaks like unreasoning fledglings who expect the punctual 
worm to follow, but a sprinkling of people who had been in Arab 
countries and asked about manageable problems like irrigation, leaving 



the vaster platitudes alone. It was a refreshment to the weary spirit, and 
Palestine dealt with in an atmosphere of serenity. I was sorry to leave 
Victoria that same evening, but, of course, delighted to reach this haven 
and stay with the Selous 1 who are old friends from Basra. And here again 
I feel with all the casual people I meet a very pleasant sense of being near 
home. There is an essential change as one crosses the frontier. Perhaps it 
was symbolized at the lunch of the Canadian club, which began with 
grace and ended with a toast to the King and the Canadian anthem? It 
was the largest meeting they had had and I had to speak into a micro- 
phone, and however often I do it, it still makes me feel ill beforehand ; but 
as it was for a British audience such a relief not to have to bother about 
being so modest I really set out to give a picture of our general achieve- 
ment in the Middle East both before and through the war. An old padre 
came up afterwards and told me that the churches are being circularized 
by the Zionists, and asked my opinion. He said that being Scottish he had 
suspected there might be a snag in their argument and had made no re- 
sponse. As a result, Mr. Selous thought it a good plan to get hold of the 
Bishop who is a charming man and dealt with Palestine with restful 
brevity: asked for the number of Jews v. Arabs; asked for the Balfour 
Declaration; remarked on the second clause of it; said: 'Obviously there 
is a duty to each side' : and arranged for me to meet the Bishop of San 
Francisco, here on a visit today. 

A Royal Navy Commander came up, last seen on his tiny gunboat on 
the Tigris. Everyone practically has a girl or boy overseas. Oh my, what 
a relief not to have to be tactful about mentioning the fact that we're at 
war ! One more meeting, and I leave for a week of country life to- 
morrow, just in time to save me from going neurotic. 

Train from VANCOUVER 4 March 1944 

It deluged in Vancouver, but I had time and chance to look into Howe's 
Sound and see the fjords and islands. One kst lecture two Zionist ladies 
panting to be at me. One of them read out a bit of Van Paassen about the 
Colonial Office, saying that sooner or later every man has to face the truth. 
I could not resist interjecting that I hoped this day might come soon to 
Mr. Van P. and was clapped for this sentiment ! I told the heckler that as 
the C.O. has most of the bother it is obviously not anxious to stir it up, 
and that all one need do to understand is to pause by one of our Yeomanry 
lads* graves in Palestine and think whereupon the audience nearly 
cheered. I added a small rapture over the Zionists' wonderful work, which 
1 Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Selous. He was then Trade Commissioner in Vancouver. 



had the usual effect of a soft answer to make the woman look like murder ; 
my hostess, sitting beside her, was appalled at her venom. It is much the 
best way to smile, and leave it to one's statements to flatten them out. 

Now here are no public speeches for a week ! A wonderful peace is 
about me. We are slipping through hour after hour of mountains 
clothed with pine and cedar, all sleeping in this snow ; the clearings, the 
wooden huts and tidy orchards look minute in such a vastness : there is 
great gallantry in this western land cut out of the hardness of nature and 
only just holding its own. The train runs along steep slopes, crossing 
gullies on trestle bridges made of timber ; wind-bitten people come in 
at the stations, with nice faces. 

My father died at Creston in 1931 and I had never been able to 
reach Canada again to sort out his affairs : Tom Leaman, our groom 
and gardener in my Devonshire childhood, had looked after them 
and kept everything for me, and I now wrote from : 


I have been here on my ranch three days, splashing about in the 
thawing orchards and trying to get through an accumulation of business 
of fifteen years. It is pleasant to get back to the earth and its crops, and 
to talk about the fruit buds, more fat and prosperous to the eye of the 
expert than the prospects of Europe. My father came here thirty years 
ago, and blasted the stumps out of his land with dynamite when there 
were only a dozen homesteads in the breadth of the valley; now there 
are over six thousand people in the town and its district, and these older 
orchards slant down as it might be Herefordshire. But there is still a 
pioneering feel about the place in spite of its new stores and hotel and 
cinema; the people are mostly hard up and good to each other ; and pretty 
well every young lad who could possibly be spared is away in the forces. 
Even here I was badgered into a talk in the grand new school-house to an 
audience of about five hundred farmers and their wives ; even babies were 
brought One can see the sort of background out of which the prosperity 
of the U.S.A. has grown, and it is fascinating to watch these two different 
stages side by side : also alarming. There is a great storehouse here of 
tradition, and a far greater unity to start with, and, of course, a reassuring 
preponderance of Scots! Will this country save something beyond 
dollars to believe in and keep the qualities it brings with it from home ? 
There is one point which ought to be strongly remembered in Canada, 



where the greatest interest is taken in the British side of what happens in 
the Middle East. A number of Canadians have come up to me thrilled by 
the new conception of Empire based on co-operation and service. Now 
Lord Halifax's speech and Churchill's (about not liquidating the Empire) 
assumed this but did not make it plainly understood, and both have come 
in for a very mixed reception ; if the matter is not explained in simple 
language as I have been doing, the audience is apt to understand something 
not only different but opposite an imperialism of the old sort which is 
unpopular among the young. If we could really make this country 
realize what we are building into the future, it might be just the inspiration 
they need. The United States are pulling, I take it, with a very strong 
economic magnet; their way of life and values have a terrific and, it 
seems to me, disastrous appeal ; our best means of countering is with an 
idea. These are good people ; they are not just * economic dust' ; you need 
only look at the Home Guard along the railway line, the grey-headed men 
in their uniforms and old ribbons, all joining again. We must give a 
vision for rallying. But I don't think just 'Empire' is enough for the 
young ones : they must and can feel they are building something new and 
useful to all the world. I think the actual meaning of what we are doing 
should be so carefully and conscientiously instilled that no cliche about 
imperialism should have a chance of being listened to. We have our 
opportunity and it may not come again. 

I must stop, my dear Elizabeth, and you will now have nearly a week's 
rest from my diary. 

REGINA 15 March 

The fact of my having a farm on the Kootenay made everything go 
very easily at the Calgary dinner, and a doctor came in who had been an 
airman in Iraq in the First World War. Only one old diehard stood up 
and said he still thought 'Britain had made a mistake and Britain ought 
to pay'. The whole audience, as one man, pointed out that it was Pales- 
tine and not Britain who was being asked to pay, but he remained un- 
shaken, full of a rock-like integrity impervious to sense. The rest how- 
ever were quite convinced and my chairman told me it was a great relief 
to him to feel that Britain had not gone back on her word. This is what is 
so pleasant here, the constant meeting with people who are thinking in 
terms other than profit and loss. Do you think it is the out-of-door life ? 
One knows that a mountaineer will not cut his rope, whatever the pros 
and cons may be, or that a traveller through the bush will share with his 
packmen even if it reduces all his chances it is easy to talk to people like 


that because there is an unshakeable and simple foundation. Anyway after 
it was all over I went to the local Rabbi and shook hands, and told him I 
hoped he would get back to Palestine by peaceful means, and a Russian 
Jew, his friend, came and held my hands in the warmest manner. It is a 
horrid job to have to trample on people's dreams, and one is always 
wishing that cakes could simultaneously be had and eaten. 

My chairman walked about with me in the cold starlight till the train 
was in, and told me of Canadian troubles and of his life here (he was born 
in Cheshire), and of the joy of building in a new land. And this morning 
I got to Regina which has prairie all round it, in low waves like the 

I wish I knew what an Explorer looks like ? Every journalist's first 
remark is that I don't look like one. * Oddly,' The San Francisco Chronicle 
says (why oddly ?), 'this explorer is no hulking man but a frail, pixie-like 
woman.' And The Vancouver Daily Province says that, as a British agent, 
I am the 'novelist's dream come true'. Is that flattering, I wonder ? 

WINNIPEG 16 March 1944 

Regina is behind me and we are trundling through the prairie in a 

I am always now being asked about the dissension between us and the 
U.S.A. over the new oil pipe-line. I saw this question coining weeks 
ahead and asked for guidance and was told not to talk about it if I could 
avoid it ; but naturally one can't avoid it and I do register a wail over this 
Government habit of giving its children a negative when they ask for 
bread. I have therefore (as often before) had to make up my own 

In Regina one comes into the Middle West atmosphere, people who 
as they themselves say have come not to live but to make money. But 
whether it is their comparative poverty, or whether it is the force of more 
traditional standards still working, it is a temperate atmosphere: the 
money standard may be the one followed, but one has not got the feeling 
that no other standard exists. 

18 March 1944 

My chairman here, a most charming lawyer from Toronto, expected 
me to have a tough time and so I did : there were about forty to fifty men, 
mostly kwyers, doctors, etc., and at least five Zionists, one a K.C. called 
finHed with difficult questions. They were all out to get 
a$icl eowe-nteated on it entirely for over an. hour (frightfully 



exhausting). The fact is, however, that if you base your case solidly on its 
fundamentals, the details sink into proper perspective. The lawyers came 
up afterwards and told me I was a good fencer, and there was no doubt 
which side they were on by the end of the evening. It was exciting, but 
alarming, to argue with such a trained audience. At the end one of the Zion- 
ists dished his case completely by saying that as force was being used to move 
populations in eastern Europe, why not in Palestine ? I said he had de- 
scribed the only alternative to a policy of consent, and I left it to the room 
to judge which was the better of the two. The room was in no doubt. 
Another point brought up was the relative numbers of Jews and Arabs in 
the fighting forces more than three times as many Jews. I said I thought 
the difference not quite so great, but anyway it seemed to me that a Jew 
had more than three times as many reasons for fighting the Germans as 
an Arab had. The kst argument was that it would pay Britain to have a 
strategic point like Palestine in friendly hands. I said the whole area 
between India and the Mediterranean was strategic and it paid us to have 
it friendly. I think I enjoyed a rather unfair advantage, being the only 
woman in that roomful of men all shooting questions at me. Several 
came up afterwards and said they were ready to come to my assistance, 
only they saw I didn't need it, and even Mr. Finkelstein came and patted 
me on the shoulder. One of the Zionists ended by quoting Lloyd George 
who hoped to see Palestine as Jewish as England is English. I thought this 
really didn't deserve to be seriously dealt with and remarked that my 
father had left England and settled in Canada because he disliked Lloyd 
George, and everyone laughed and cheered. 

I went back with my chairman afterwards to end the evening with 
him and his wife and two friends, drinking sherry in a library filled with 
old books. There is a pleasant civic pride about the men who run these 
prairie towns, the sort of feeling you find in Thucydides when he writes of 
the Greek cities: they have the joy of building, and realize it, stepping 
easily from their traditions to their future and competent to do it. 

Having some time next morning to play with, I spent it in the Hudson 
Bay Company's litde museum, following the romantic history from the 
first charter given by Charles II. It is fascinating to think that this huge 
dominion owes its colonization to so small an animal as the beaver, whose 
fur was fashionable for hats. 

WASHINGTON 26 March 1944 

It was an impressive and rather nerve-racking affair to be defending 
the White Papa: under the eye of its author in Ottawa. I stayed with 


Malcolm MacDonald and his sister. Everyone likes him across the breadth 
of Canada; he seems to have all the virtues for a public life and is such a 
nice person in private. 

We had about fifty people at the International Affairs Association and, 
when my speech was ended, got down to a good hour of questions and 
answers on Palestine. No other aspect of Arabia even touched on, except 
the pipe-line. I was so tired I scarce knew what I was saying, but am so 
imbued with it now that it comes out automatically. The Zionists were 
ready-prepared with notes, but no question that could not be answered, 
and the best Canadian orator was there a Mr. Brockington, listening 
under a forest of his own eyebrows. He asked all the main Zionist 
questions with a chortle of satisfaction when they were demolished and 
made me repeat the Balfour Declaration twice over had never heard of 
the second, non-Jewish, proviso before ! Malcolm said to me afterwards 
that I appeared to be one of the very few people who had ever read his 
White paper, and told me that our argument expresses the intentions of 
the policy when it was made. He also told me how Weizmann tried to 
induce him to alter it and, when he saw it was not to be done by fair 
words, lost all control, using the most violent threats and invective. I 
have always been convinced that Weizmann's dagger and his silken 
sheath are two very different substances. 

The External Affairs in Ottawa had a Miss MacCallum to keep them 
posted on the Middle East. She was born in Turkey and happens to be an 
enthusiast on her own regions, and I dined with her and gave her the 
latest news I had. It is extraordinary what devotion these scarred and 
naked lands can still inspire: here she was, a white-haired gentle-faced 
American with a passion for the rights of people who clamber barefoot 
behind their camels and mules and donkeys all over the Arabian world and 
have no idea even that her sort of life exists. The human capacity for being 
interested is pleasant when you come to think of it. 

Just before leaving we discovered a Committee of Canadian-Arab 
Friendship in existence. It was too late to meet its representatives in 
Ottawa, but I agreed to dine with them during my three hours' wait in 
Montreal and when I got there (after dark in a snowstorm) found four 
grizzled Lebanese preceded by a large bouquet waiting on the platform 
wrapped up in tweed coats to which they managed to give an oriental 
casmlness destructive of the most respectable tailoring. They all owned 
Htde businesses of various sorts a candy store, a dress shop, a restaurant. 
Ttey had brbugbt a car, and had a dinner ready in a private room at the 
Hotel; there were two extra places 'in case you had friends' 



and the bouquet was enthroned in the middle of the table, and we talked 
Arabic and spoke of villages in the hills they left forty years or more ago. 
They had banded themselves together and sent a letter with their Arab 
case to all the Canadian M.P.s: I enclose this document, a feeble sling- 
stone against Goliath. I have long ago come to the conclusion that hardly 
any Arab should be left to manage his own case ! As an afterthought, 
when dinner was over, they said they must get a few journalists to see me : 
I had just an hour left, having resisted their optimism, which tried to 
mesmerize my train into leaving at eleven instead often: however one 
French reporter of Le Canada was found and I took him on before they 
bewildered him into chaos over the Arab cause. They were so decent 
with it all. The owner of the candy store interrupted his own anti- 
Zionist oration by reflecting that 'one must do what one can for those 
poor people: we too have refugees ! But,' he added sensibly, 'if you are 
given three rooms in an hotel, it does not mean you should expect the 
whole building.' I felt, as I have felt so often, that it is not want of 
shrewdness or capacity that makes the Arabs so bad at their own case ; it is 
their incurable conviction that pleasant living is worth more than success. 
I nearly lost my train because a little typewritten speech had to be read out, 
and we then ploughed through ice and sleet to the station, as the car had 
been based on the non-existent eleven o'clock train. I left the Canadian- 
Arab Friendship Committee with a very warm heart. 

And that was the end of my circuit. As I am nearly always ill in trains 
and can't get over the feeling of panic before speeches, I spend practically 
the whole of a lecture tour in a state of nausea and am glad to have 
reached the journey's end ; but I have enjoyed all my work during the 
war so much that I feel rather glad to make a sort of offering of something 
I don't like to do. Events in Washington, Michael Wright tells me, have 
been busy showing America how sensible we were in what we said: we 
now sit like Cassandra and watch the Trojan horse and what comes out of 
it. I cannot believe that the U.S.A. will long remain on the side opposite 
to Oil 



Last of America 

The crossing of America over, I spent two months engaged in 
arrangements for a book published in New York under the tide of 
The Arabian Isle and in England as East is West. It had been sug- 
gested by Dr. Brandt of the Oriental Institute in Chicago and was 
intended to give an easy but, humanly speaking, accurate picture of 
the Arabian background to the Palestine question. Even at that 
eleventh hour one hoped for conciliation. Malcolm MacDonald 
wrote in May that he felt convinced 'from information received 
from various quarters that, if only the Jews will accept the policy of 
seeking agreement, Jewish immigration can continue by consent/ 

But the hardening and the urgency of this problem grew sharper 
as the end of the war began to come in sight. Sir Kinahan wrote 
from Baghdad (194.44) : * . . . Those delightful letters describing 
your doings have interested me very much indeed and your tour 
has been more than worth while. Our chief danger, as you know, 
lies in the Palestine settlement of which the world is so woefully 
ignorant. So I am very glad to hear that you have been asked to 
write a book and the sooner you do so the better. Things are much 
as they were the cabinet as always tottery and everything pretty 
expensive . . . Nuri goes faint at intervals and one never knows how 
much longer he will last.' 

A month or two later Christopher Scaife reported a telegram 
from the Foreign Office supporting our Brotherhood in very strong 
terms , . , 'They say they realize the British Government is asso- 
ciated in the minds of many people here with old-fashioned and 
corrupt cliques, with whom they must deal because they are the 
governing groups; and consider die Brotherhood a valuable means 
crfsltowiag that though Gteat Britain caimot intervene to change 
sfa^dteds are not ones of which she approves, and she 


welcomes any movement towards change for the better. The 
Foreign Office, says the telegram, attaches importance to the con- 
tinuance of the work after the war . . . Honestly, Freya, it really is 
a triumph. There is no hedging in the language; it's a downright 
acceptance with no reservation.' 

Meanwhile my Washington life resumed its course and while I 
relaxed with neither a speech nor railway journey at the end of every 
day, two Rabbis and a Congress member asked for my removal. 

WASHINGTON 31 Match 1944 
My dear Elizabeth, 

I saw them all, like Ulysses apres le long voyage . . . and heard that Mr. 
Cellor in Congress puts me in the lowest Inferno circle shared only by the 
Colonial Office. Most of this sound and fury is Election; all we need do 
is to sit quite quiet and practise that lethargy which comes naturally to 
government departments. I have always felt the Arab cause safe since 
it was switched by H.M.G. to the side of inaction. 

i April 1944 

Alice Longworth had us all to dinner last night delightful full of 
gaiety and malice and charmed me as we were talking about physical 
exercise by lifting her foot with both hands and putting it on her shoulder ; 
she told me she likes to drive in this Yoga position by herself in a car 
through New York. Her nephew, Archie Roosevelt, sat next me, boiling 
over Tunis Arab wrongs and I had some difficulty (but succeeded I hope) 
in persuading him that the best way to help the African Arabs was not a 
head-on attack on the French but general strengthening and unification in 
the East. 

After dinner I sat in a corner with James Dunn (Mr. Cordell Hull's 
right-hand man) and was pleased to see what a difference there was in. his 
attitude between this conversation and the one before I started on my 
journey. He told me he had been, watching the predictions then ma<le 
coming true, and spoke as a full ally, and I inferred he had a little to do 
with the War Department's intervention against Senators Tafi and 
Wagner. I told tifm. I had just been reading the Book of Judges and 
noticed how it took the Israelites several centuries and many wars to get 
settled in the Promised Land even after they had immigrated into it, with 
theix unpopularity rectified by perpetual interventions from Jehovah: 
it is hard that the Colonial Office should be expected to undertake in a 
decade or two what it ,tpok Jehovah centuries of warfare to accomplish. 


The U.S.A. unpopularity among the Arabs is preoccupying them all 
here, I am glad to see. There is every likelihood, as I wrote before my 
journey, that an Arab policy will emerge slowly, and it seems to me that 
our most important job more even than the Zionists is to implant 
co-operation in the minds of all these government departments now, 
while the policy is fluid and the minds that will deal with the Middle 
East are open to ideas. Competition or co-operation are in the balance, 
and it may well be a question of individual idiosyncrasies on which 
side the scales rise or fall; and now is the time when diplomacy can act. 
"We have to make converts, not to our ideas on the Middle East but 
to the fact that they are our ideas and not a U.S.A. monopoly : and that it 
is only together and not separately that we can work them out. I think 
it pays to point out too what a very good job we have made of the 
Middle East a fact which the Zionists tend to make people forget. The 
Arabian future seems good so long as it can develop in a climate of 
security; the great achievement of Britain has been to keep a sort of 
umbrella over these countries to shelter them while their nationalism was 
young and tender, and the great point of the American entry is that this 
umbrella can now be made bigger and more protective. But it would be 
a mistake to let anyone forget that it was a British umbrella in the first 
place. I have often thought that it would be quite a good plan if we made 
more of our status as an Arabian government (Aden and Hadhramaut) 
and had a seat as of right in the meetings of the Arab nations. This might 
be done now unobtrusively, while later it would probably rouse all sorts 
of oppositions. 

PS. You know the joke that is going about here in the Republican 
houses that they would like to lease Churchill and lend Roosevelt ? 

15 April 1944 

I was taken to lunch by two young Arabs from Syria and Iraq, both 
working for the O.W.I. Amusing to see the different outlook of the two 
countries, and what a much more congenial spirit we have managed to 
produce in Iraq. The U.S.A. Government has a lot of these Middle 
Easterners to draw on, whose influence is worth bearing in mind: it 
means that their information is that of young men inclined to be antagon- 
istic to the people in office and to spread the feeling, if we are not careful, 
that Britain is die bulwark of the old fogeys. If the U.S.A, ever came to 
look upon itself as the champion of the young progressive Arab as against 
lft& reactioiiacy governments supported by Britain, it would be largely 
ifed^i rife agepcy of these effeadis in offices. This will not happen if we 



continue to develop the 'young 5 side of our contacts, as we have been 
doing lately. I spent most of lunch arguing that it is unreasonable to 
expect the diplomats to be in intimate touch with both sides, as they are 
not compatible other bodies, such as the British Council, Public Rela- 
tions, etc., should foster the young. The Iraqi saw this at once, the 
Syrian not so easily, being obsessed by French misdeeds to the exclusion 
of more general ideas, like most Syrians. 

No sooner had I lunched with these young men, than Major Snyder 
arrived to carry me off to the War Department, where twenty-five 
thousand people are housed in the Pentagon building in a sort of Brave 
New World apotheosis only mitigated by old-fashioned things like trees 
on the horizon: one can look out of the office windows and see that the 
structure of the universe still stands, but for everything to do with 
ordinary life one can forget it and live in the man-made world. 

Major Snyder is the most friendly, sincere man, unbitten by jealousies 
or inferiorities and therefore all out to help and appreciate: he makes one 
realize a certain hollowness in other people's ideas of co-operation. His 
brother-in-law is D.C. in Jaffa and used to be in Iraq and I spent the 
evening with them pleasantly forgetting who was American and who 
British. Before this, however, he took me into a room of the War 
Department with about thirty people from all the services, and I answered 
questions for two hours. I did this again the next day with the Strategic 
Services and may as well group the gist of the three meetings together. 

The dominant preoccupation seems to be Russia; they asked again and 
again whether she is being active among the younger people. I said that 
as far as I knew there was no organized activity, merely the general 
attaction of young men all over the world. The name of Communism 
is applied to any leftward movement, often not communistic at all. They 
evidently thought me optimistic : they expect trouble but seem to think, 
of it as Anglo-Russian, not affecting the U.S.A. The idea that we are 
treating the menace in a homoeopathic way was not received with any 
enthusiasm (though Mr. Ireland agreed in private that it was the only 
method which might be successful). At the bottom of it all there seems 
to be the humiliating conviction that the British can't make themselves 
liked anywhere, so that if anyone else comes along we are more or less 
done for ; of course no one said this, and in fact may not have consciously 
thought it, but the whole structure of their theories is built on this assump- 
tion. Their information did not seem to take sufficient account of the 
changes of the last two or three years; these are almost all in British 
favour, and I stressed diem strongly. 

p [213] 


The most interesting lunch was with a Captain A. of the State Depart- 
ment who gave me a long and friendly account of all the reasons why 
Americans distrust the British in the Middle East. The one that seemed to 
require most attention was a growing feeling that we are encouraging 
American unpopularity among the Arabs, which I assured him was a 
mistake and that I had come out to put the Arab case precisely because 
our people foresaw that the Zionists would make the U.S.A. unpopular 
and we should be blamed. 

Americans are discouraged, said the Captain, because they feel we 
don't really want them in the Middle East; we did not welcome the 
pipe-line. I again took a strongly non-appeasement view and said: 

* Didn't they spring it on us without a word?' He admitted this and 
agreed that if ever we are to work together it will be essential to make the 
U.S. public understand that the Middle East is not a field for competition. 
People are annoyed, he said, because Ibn Saud declared that if he had to 
choose between us, he would choose British ; they look upon his adoption 
of the American as a switching over rather than as the widening of an old 
friendship to include a new one. I agreed very heartily in this view and 
said I had been perturbed for some time to see the sort of * corner' in 
Ibn Saud which even people like Colonel H, are inclined to make. 

He then pointed out the difficulty for Americans to understand our 

* double' policy the old imperialist and the new (with which he agreed 
although he 'could not say so here'). I pointed out that it isn't two 
policies, it is merely that we are like those trees that keep the old leaves 
while the new are already shooting out and it is up to the observer to see 
which is which. He agreed and said, acutely I thought, that the British 
have objectives but no policies, and that our apparent double system still 
unites in making for the same objective. The Americans would never 
work with our old-fashioned imperialists but, he agreed, there was far 
more chance with newer cultural ventures. That would be all right, I 
said, so long as they did not think of the one as opposite to the other; for 
the fact is that we do all work for the same and if there is disagreement 
it is only a minor one of method. * One would then have to agree on the 
objectives,' said Captain A. 'Well, what are the American objectives in 
the Middle East ? ' said I. ' Self-interest and altruism,' said he. I said it was 
my firm conviction that the two came to the same thing in the long run. 
He told me that this is where the British and Americans really disagree; 
the Americans are so generous they can't bear to think of altruism as 
profitable. 'Well,' said I, 'they must just bring themselves to study the 
facts and see whether it is or is not so.' 'They can't study facts,' said he. 



'They have been dominated by advertisement too long/ It is a gloomy 

The bright spot in all this talking was the conversion of Senator G. 
Virginia Bacon, who is a dear, asked me to a large dinner-party with the 
Halifaxes and Lippmanns and many whose names I didn't know and sat 
me next a genial white-haired superabundant old boy, one of those who 
gaily declare they know nothing about a question and sign documents 
without a qualm. I thought I would try him with the Bible and began by 
bringing to his notice the likeness between Ibn Saud and King Solomon 
they both kept up their political relationships by marrying numerous 
wives among the Arab tribes. The Senator had forgotten that Solomon 
carried conciliation so far as to build temples to Ashtoreth just out- 
side the Jerusalem gate. He did remember that David took refuge 
with the king of the Philistines below Jaffa: by the time we were through 
the fish he realized that conciliation had been the only successful policy in 
Israel. He told me he had to speak on modern Palestine next week and was 
it true that the Arab feeling was merely artificially fostered ? I gave him 
pictures of the holy men in Nejf and the peasants in the Yemen sending 
their pennies to the Palestine guerrillas. He said: Tin going to change all 
my speeches; I'm so glad I heard this in time,* and leaned across our 
hostess to tell Lord Halifax how glad he was. I got a very quizzical look 
from H.E. who doubtless expects more protests from rabbis,^and I got 
up filled with admiration over this light-heartedness with the policies of 
nations. Spent the rest of the evening listening in a peaceful way to Mr. 
Shapiro who was making all our minds up for us on Russia. 

17 April 1944 

Oil is being poured on the Zionist waters in a way anything but 
soothing. If the rival companies here begin to talk about each other, 
British diplomacy will look pure, by comparison, even to American 

20 April 1944 

The latest jewel of American co-operation came to me while lunching 
with one of the Iraqis. He asked what he was to do, having been re- 
quested by someone itx the State Department to induce Nuri to foment a 
protest similar to the recent united Arab anti-American effort 1 only this 
one to be directed against the British on the subject of the Yemen-Aden 
1 Against the Senators Taft and Wagner. 


boundary. I believe this statement because when I was being quizzed by 
all the Middle East departments, every one of them showed what seemed 
to me a peculiar interest in the Aden boundary dispute. (I merely 
answered that I had never known Aden without a boundary dispute and 
that it was the sort of boundary that always does have disputes, and in 
fact disappointed them visibly by refusing to consider it of any import- 
ance.) It is a sordid tale anyway . When one or two stories of this sort are 
circulating, it is obviously a waste of breath to talk to the Arab world 
about Anglo-American solidarity. The feeling it gives me is pure nausea, 
but there is a certain obtuseness created by the 'businessmen's ethics' 
which makes it impossible for them even to realize that this is shabby 
behaviour. I mentioned it to Lord Halifax who looked into the middle 
distance and said: *an interesting psychology.' 

It is cold and wet, but this town is a lovely sight in its nest of trees; 
they shimmer like a rainstorm, every drop a bud. 

One's heart is in the news as it mounts towards its climax. Someone 
said that if the invasion suffered a setback this country might be stepping 
out : I replied rather acidly that in that case she would step out all alone 
but he was drowned in a general chorus. 

PS. Do you call to mind that our Bible notion of Hell is derived from 
the Babylonian i.e. the fire and brimstone of Middle Eastern oil? 

i May 1944 

The Irelands say that the reports now coming in are very satisfactory 
and the interviews of the last few months are showing results. The 
reports are certainly much more cheerful. The Daily Telegraph corre- 
spondent tells me that my Jewish friends in San Francisco have been writ- 
ing to express anti-Zionist feelings and sympathy with our policy. It 
seems to me that you should now get some new person every few months 
to do a tour, withdraw them when like me they become a target, 
and then start with someone else. Nothing gets so monotonous as in- 
vective, and an angry Zionist would soon become an habitual feature of 
the Congress landscape which no one would notice. 

The Rabbis' attack here, Lord Halifax told me, has been dealt with in 
the 'easy' way and sent to London for burial, and I was amused by Mr. 
Mander's questions in the House [as to why I had been sent to the U.S.A. 
and what I was doing there]. I wonder if I can get back in July ? There is 
no chance of going now as everything but the most urgent is clamped 
down, and all rather doubtful about the summer. It is almost unbearable 
to be so far away. 



I wrote to Brendan Bracken 1 to thank him for his defence of me 
and to point out that I had never minimized the Jewish achievement 
and had never yet had an audience that did not agree with my 'very 
moderate views' by the end of the evening. * It is possibly this which 
has upset some extremists? May I add a purely personal opinion 
which I feel very strongly ? I think that if we were to drop our 
present banner of "keepers of faith" with the Arab world, the 
U.S.A. would very quickly pick it up and wave it?' 

NEW YORK 17 May 1944 
My dear Elizabeth, 

I had a party and a dinner given by the dear Wrights, and there said 
good-bye to the three queens of Washington who have been so kind 
to me, and on my way here spent a pleasant day with Professor Hitti 
among his Arabic manuscripts at Princeton. The dogwood was out and 
the wistaria ; there was a Gothic calm term being over and they have 
the finest Arabic manuscript collection in this country, of which even the 
outer view on rows and rows of shelves was peaceful. They live in an 
atmosphere of tradition, exclusiveness, and all the things one can indulge 
when not obsessed by this fetish of equality, and they outrage the demo- 
cratic principle by selecting small numbers of the most intelligent students 
only for Princeton. 

21 May 1944 

A sidelight on my friends in Congress Mr. Cellor wrote to the 
American Geographical Society warning against having me as a lecturer 
an 'agent of the British*. It appears to have had an excellent effect 
opposite to what was intended ; I can't tell you how nice all the geogra- 
phers have been. I am also still deeply involved with the Council of 
Churches and also called on Mr. Sulzbergcr (publisher of The New York 
Times] a charming, sad man. He read me a letter he wrote in 1937 
speaking of the wish of an American Jew to be nothing but American 
except in a religious sense. His reluctance to be active against the Zionists 
comes, I think, from a natural and sorrowful feeling the wish to tread 
softly when one is treading on people's dreams : anyone must feel this, and 
how much more when it is one's own people ! 

My dear Elizabeth, I can hardly bear the Zionist question any longer ! 
Would you be very angelic and send six of my clothing coupons to 

1 The Minister of Information. 


Norman Hartnell, Bruton Street ? (If you remember, I left my little lot of 
coupons to await my return.) 

Elsa Maxwell came to lunch with Alyx Rothschild and Chips 
Channon (just over). It was like sitting under a waterfall inaccurate but 
not malicious a stream of human kindness tossing promiscuously, 
the first pronoun singular borne up among the waves. I liked her, but 
my I hope she never writes about me ; her genius for inaccuracy is almost 
unbelievable. She is giving a big dinner for Clare Luce tonight and I am 

22 May 1944 

An incredible party a hundred people in the Salle des Perroquets of 
the Waldorf Astoria. We got lost among naked marble and elevators till 
the noise guided us and there was everybody John Gunther, Dorothy 
Thompson, Anne McCormick, congressmen, journalists, the highbrows 
of New York, and Mrs. Luce looking beautiful in a sad and bitter way; 
Elsa Maxwell with her arm round everybody, genuinely rejoicing in 
having so many friends. I went with the Marriotts (John just out from 
England seated with a quizzical look beside Elsa). At my table were 
Colonel Bodley and Henry Luce. Colonel B. has written a book on his 
seven years among the Sahara Bedouin and we were soon talking nomad 
shop which I found very interesting ; I had not realized that these Sahara 
Arabs had kept their traditions and their racial character so intact. Soon, 
however, when I discovered who was on my other side, I tore myself 
from this pleasant Arab meandering and plunged into Anglo-American 
tangles with Henry Luce, a tormented soul but likeable. I found him 
surprisingly sympathetic over the sentimental nonsense about exotic 
peoples that we suffer from and he evidently does not share his wife's 
indiscriminate slogans; but about England he expressed disapproval of 
Winston Churchill in no uncertain terms and refuses to look on him as 
anything but an old-fashioned imperialist. He made me feel as usual how 
it is the name and not the thing itself that people out here mind; he was 
quite passionate about it, with at the same time a great feeling for the 
English. I said I hoped that we were once again becoming 'Elizabethan* 
and he leaped upon this as if it were almost too good to be true, only 
doubting because, he said, it was hard to reconcile with our adoption of 
government interference of every sort. * What we Americans dislike is not 
your buccaneer who goes out into the world and carves it for his own 
profit, but the man at the desk who makes a slow safe dividend of fifty 
per cent with no personal adventure.* He had always been able to under- 
stand the English, he said their weakness in 1935-^8, their strength in 


1939; but in 1942 he went over and could understand them no longer; 
the 'imperialism' he found there seemed to go with a desire for social 
security with which it was quite incompatible. I thought he was misled 
by the word 'imperialism' which was really a desire for the enlargement 
of the commonwealth idea, and that the desire for social security came 
from a deep resolve for fundamental unity and an end of the two nations 
of the English industrial age: a wish for fairness rather than security was 
at the bottom of it. 

By this time speeches were beginning and went on till nearly 2 a.m., 
and all bad: the crowning horror was that I was dragged in with a 
question on Arabs in whom nobody was interested and I wished I were in 
a uniform like John who got out of everything on that score. Mrs. Luce 
ended the evening with a long and accomplished speech, beginning with 
her childhood and going right through her friends to the present moment. 
The smiles, the movements, the pauses, the daisy-schoolgirl innocence 
were all thought out beforehand and nothing was genuine but the voice 
is lovely with a moving quality in it, and she is lovely to look at, and laid 
the flattery on like butter (unrationed), and everyone was charmed, even 
I, because it was a work of art. The only thing I thought unforgivable was 
a reference to her former 'husband : she said that Elsa Maxwell's friendship 
had suffered a fifteen-year eclipse while she (Clare) 'was married to a 
bore'. A ruthless woman ! John Marriott's reaction this morning is that 
he thinks he must leave for England next week. The only real lightness 
was brought by a comedian (Eddie Cantor) who excused himself from a 
speech, dived into the hotel and emerged with a shy little blonde in a 
turquoise toque with whom he sang a song about having a baby which I 
must say, in that highbrow atmosphere, I found extremely refreshing. 

NEWPORT 30 May 1944 

Tomorrow I give my last lecture. After that, apart from one day in 
New York to try and convert the Federal Council of Churches (which 
seemed important enough to tear me back into a town) I shall sit in the 
country until my passage to England materializes ; like a happy nation, I 
hope to have no history, and this diary comes to its end. One day I shall 
read it and be shocked by the chaos I have hurled at you, but I never had 
time to write carefully and felt it better to jot down what came at the end 
of the day than to leave you with no record at all. It is nice of you to tell 
me that you think the job done satisfactorily; it has been such a nerve- 
straining aflfair that I fed rather down and out and unable to judge very 
clearly mysel My wrists and ankles have developed curious pains and 



they tell me this is a poison due to strain. Anyway I have now been in the 
real country for two days and suddenly realized that it is just country 
cows, trees, grass, sky that I need and nothing else ; I had reached the point 
when the thought of a platform made me physically sick. 

It is fine, however, to end with a week in New England. There is a 
tradition and a rectitude about it, a difference from the rest of what I have 
seen as between beads that are threaded and those that lie scattered. One 
can see it in the Boston faces nice shabby worn faces that don't mind 
getting old and look exactly like their great-grandfathers painted by 
Copley in the Boston museum. I had three days with two good old 
people in a house crowded with family photographs, samplers, books, 
Victorian sofas upholstered and held down with red velvet nails, rocking 
chairs, piety and comfort and a mixture of austerity and benevolence 
which was charming. I then stayed with the Constables, friends from 
Asolo was taken to the Somerset Club, which is the pinnacle of Boston 
old ladies with untidy grey hair wearing the fashions of the past in a 
way that made one feel at home and Sunday I spent with other old 
friends at Pride's Crossing, where the woods go back for thirty miles over 
a sea promontory, and the unassuming rich live in a simple rural and 
expensive tranquillity. The bungalow was full of pictures and Lowestoft 
china; cows pastured below the windows by the lake; we bathed with 
apple blossom and lilac hanging over the water ; it was very agreeable. 
We had the Sedgwicks to lunch (ex-editor of The Atlantic Monthly), 
and talked of Persia, Arabs and France ; and went to tea with the Philips 
who look down an Italian vista to the lake. 

Next day I met Miss Williamson of The Christian Science Monitor 
whose heart is in London ; she told me that she once arrived to revisit Dr. 
Johnson's house as the caretaker was just closing it, but he recognized her 
as a visitor from other years, and left her to browse about alone by lamp- 
light for an hour or so ; she feeds on this memory when the thought of 
what has been happening in London makes her sad. These are true sorts of 
friends since they have a passionate wish to preserve the things we also 
care about, and it seems to me that we can never do too much to make 
ourselves intelligible and keep these real allies with us: no amount of 
conciliating the other sort of American will make up for the loss of those 
who genuinely share our views of life, even if they are now in a minority. 

I said this to Miss Williamson, and I said it more or less in a short speech 
of thanks to the 'American Defence' of Harvard where I pointed to what 
seemed to me the essential likeness between the New and die Old England 
the desire to give service rather than to preserve one's rights. It seemed 



to me that New England is nearer in this to Great Britain than to the rest 
of the U.S.A. and I said so and they appeared to like it. 

My visit had to end on the more familiar note, with a radio 
talk for women introduced once a week by the opening bars of 'The 
Blue Danube'. When I had done I was thanked by a sprightly 
blonde, "and next week" she turned to her public through the 
microphone "we have another treat in store for you : our Circus of 
Performing Animals" & lecture tour's not inappropriate close. 

My feelings for England and New England were echoed by Isaiah 

London is heaven (he wrote) and Oxford seventh heaves.. After four 
days in my own room, and a conversation or two with the Cecils and 
their friends (Lord Berners, you will be glad to hear, has written a national 
anthem for Saudi Arabia which he played to me on the piano), I lost all 
desire to see telegrams, dispatches, important persons, etc., and indeed, 
although I fear to say it, actually began to lose interest in all the subjects 
with which they dealt. Before this enchantment could pass, I made a 
date with my college to return and setde down to a life of contemplation 
(which genuinely seems to me fuller of tangible and palpable objects than 
my present existence certainly no politics are more real than those of 
academic life, no loves deeper, no hatreds more burning, no principles 
more sacred). 

I shall, if I may, take you at your word about your house in Venetia. 
Who knows but we may go to the Holy Land together from there one 
day, but not yet, 1 hasten to add. As I told Colonel Hoskins the other 
day, I find I have no stomach for the ingredients of that fearful cauldron 
and find a position on its edge, scalded from time to time by its fearful 
exhalations, futile as well as uncomfortable ... I do envy you your early 
return. . . . 

CONNECTICUT 1 6 June 1)44 
Dear Elizabeth, 

Everyone has been kind and helpful; I cannot tell you how easy they 
made it all. And here I am, miles from the world, at Sharon, Conn., 
in country lush and green, real farms and lovely houses. A peaceful liking 
for America creeps into my soul. But it is like a dream to think of London 
in a fortnight. 



England in 1944 

A woman and I, the only two females on the flying-boat from 
Baltimore, travelled in the 'honeymoon suite*. From its bedroom, 
furnished like the Ritz, we saw the Atlantic icebergs in the sun. Day- 
light met daylight above them, for we destroyed four hours by 
flying eastwards, drove across Ireland to another airfield, and were 
in London before dark. And London was fine : empty and shabby 
among its battered windows and breached thoroughfares, it 
flourished a sudden unexpected beauty, in the buildings or the 
quietness of people's faces, or through some odd notice of 'Business 
as usual' over gashes in walls. 

It was good to feel near it, to hear the day's battle spoken direct 
from the battle-fields every evening (one could hear the excitement 
in the correspondents' voices and the crackle of the shells behind 
them). D-Day was over and the invasion of France was on, and the 
story was going about that the Americans had asked for fifty war 
correspondents to witness the landing 'the most important event 
since die Crucifixion,' they said (rather inaccurately). 'And that,' 
the British had replied when they refused, 'was adequately covered 
by four reporters.' 

The House of Commons, bombed out, was meeting in Dean's 
Yard among texts such as 'The Fear of the Lord is the beginning 
of Wisdom', which one hoped they might take to heart for times of 
peace. I went to listen one day, when Winston Churchill came in to 
answer questions, and a liveliness followed him, as if fresh water 
were let into some stagnant pond. He stood with his huge hunched 
shoulders and head forward, his hands moving with light gestures, 
almost like a Frenchman's, against the massiveness of everything else 
about him, as if the delicacy of the artist must show through. 

At Chips Channon's one still dined at a marble table with candles 


and peaches, or with Emerald Cunard among her pictures at the 
Dorchester (stepping over the splintered glass of its shattered 
windows), where she received with eyes brilliant with belladonna, 
infusing into her ancient face a glittering life unrelated to the world 
around it. A Mme du DefFand out of her century, she was a gallant 
relic of the anden regime and I liked her even her complaint about 
the middle-class war: 'one doesn't know who is getting killed.' 
Marie Antionette, one felt, could not have done better. 

The people who were getting killed were there around one, under 
the Vi, Hitler's 'secret weapon', which in this month of July came 
chugging with jerks 'like a shopping woman trying to get to a bus', 
black against the evening sky, with fins triangular as a shark's and a 
tail of solid and stubby smoke behind it; or rolling under the moon 
across the housetops, as if a planet had lost its moorings. There was 
a silence when it descended, and one wondered where its alighting 
would be, and one could not look upon it as inanimate, it seemed 
so full of a cheerful inhuman busyness of its own. 

It was, I suppose, the first entry of the Sputnik age into our world, 
the reign of brainless metal, and its significance in retrospect is 
greater than one felt it at the time ; yet I was riveted by it and hated 
to leave London while that apparition was flaunting through its sky. 
'It seems fantastic,' I wrote to Isaiah Berlin (21.1,44), 'that we were 
lunching in Baltimore so short a time ago and here I am in another 
world. Which is the real one ? Neither, I suppose but something 
very curious has happened here with these flying robots. One has 
gone back into the ages when men saw the inevitable take on a visible 
shape, and recognized their gods, unpersuadable, unreasonable in 
human ways, full of fascination and terror. I have a window facing 
the direction from which -they come, and I spent an hour or so 
watching them last night about midnight. The sky was still green 
with faded streaks of twilight. The little droning thing began far 
off. The houses stood mauve and dark within their outlines : we 
looked like an uninhabited city, and the drone came nearer it is 
quite slow, you hear it from so far. The sky had a few clouds, their 
tips touched with light. And at last, the drumming loud now like 
an orchestra working up to the opening of the ballet, the fireball 
came skimming above the houses whose chimneys seemed to darken 



under her feet (Everyone I ask tells me they think of her as 
feminine.) She did not give one the feeling of being wicked, but 
rather as if she were a creature of the natural forces which has wil- 
fully left its own appointed circuit and gone wandering, and the 
destruction comes merely as a result of her unsuitability to the 
general surroundings. When she comes near, you hear the brazen 
flapping of her garments, you see that she is shod with flames and 
"makes the cold air fire". Shelley could have described her, and the 
Greeks would have known her ancestry. She goes off, hurrying 
over the human world that cowers as she comes, until she touches it 
far away across the houses, in a noise of death that seems to fall like 
a stone into the stillness. It is a strange life, and a strange feeling of 
fear which, like a touch of black, sets off all other colours. I would 
not be missing it for anything, nor the sight of London now, very 

The thing never stopped above me without giving me that 
peculiar constriction about the middle of one's stomach which is a 
symptom of fear yet it was not as dangerous as an ice-slope on the 
Alps when stones are rolling; it was the silence, and Inevitability 
made visible, that created the atmosphere of awe and yet most 
people I think came to feel that our years on this planet are wasted 
if something made merely of metal can upset the balance of our 
minds. The human courage all around was what one saw : a queue 
in Victoria station (as glassy a place as one can find) and the con- 
versations uninterrupted and not a musde moving on any face in 
sight when the explosion came some hundreds of yards away; or 
the actors playing Blithe Spirit to thirty or forty people in an empty 
theatre with scarcely the shred of a nuance to show when the small 
red signal of alert went on and off; or the little suburban houses 
reduced to rubble and the strangely solid figure of a policeman 
seated amid the matchboard destruction to guard the demolished 
homes ; or the liftman to the flats where I was staying, who had 
'only seven chairs, and Hitler's taken five of them* and he can have 
the other two if he wants them*. The human courage seemed to me 
something that even God does not compete with, for it is the triumph 
of Impotence over Power, the prerogative of man. 

At the beginning of August I reluctantly tore myself away and 



travelled to Devonshire in a trainload of children. They wore tabs 
marked 'Waifs and Strays' as sad an inscription as that of the 
L.C.C. carts that carry *Dust and Ashes'. The country, as we went, 
subsided into the apparently unbreakable English look of peace, in 
which, for the next four months, I lived with old friends 1 on the 
edge of Dartmoor, listening at last to our own bombers as they 
flew, every night, towards Germany in the darkness. They lulled 
us, roaring above the silent moors. After the threats and anxieties of 
the past four years, the deep beat of their engines spoke more of 
peace than war on our side, for the end was in sight. 

In this neighbourhood of my childhood, in the places I knew so 
well, we seemed wrapped in austerity and time. I wrote to my 
friends as from an island to Nigel in Greece among the Andartes ; 
to Lord Wavell in Delhi, whose letters, unlike any others and very 
like himself, I have kept. 

NEW DELHI 10 August 1044 

My dear Freya, 

I wrote to you the other day and thanked you for Benet's Western 
Star, but I had not then read the volume. I read it die other day on a long 
flight back from Assam, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Benet's poems have 
the great gift of vitality, which is to my mind the greatest and most 
attractive quality that man, woman, poet or writer can have. Did you 
ever know him ? I gather he always suffered from ill health, but he must 
have had a great spirit. Thank you so much again. 

I went back to the army for a few days this week, and visited troops 
in the Imphal plain and at Kohima, three pretty strenuous days. Now I'm 
back again in Delhi, trying to deal with Mr. Gandhi's pronouncements. 

Did you ever see the enclosed ? And do you know where the lines come 
from which begin: 

'Too late for life, too late for love, 
Too late, too kte , . / 

30 September 1944 

Your letter reached me only a few days ago, you let the poor dear 
travel steerage on a cattle-boat apparently, and it arrived in strange 
company with: 

1 Lady Waller and Miss VarwelL 


A letter from a religious maniac . . , 

Two copies of the Salvation Army journal, 

A complaint from a woman who had mislaid her grandfather's 
Mutiny pension and seemed to think I had it, 

A pamphlet on health in the new Turkey. 

The annual report of an ophthalmic hospital. 

Your charming little letter must have had not only a long but a very 
boring journey in such company. Send the next ones to the India Office 
to come by Bag, then they will have a quick passage of a week or so, and 
will get the low-down on quite a lot of interesting matters from indiscreet 
self-important official letters. 

I liked hearing of your method of dealing with files. 1 When the old 
War Office was pulled down many years ago, a sort of shaft was found 
behind the ventilator, down which it had been the custom to shove 
really inconvenient files. 

(Many such intervened : 1.11.44) 

I am sure you were right about the proper occasion for the Valentine 
hat, it ought to have gone to Paris for the entry pourjeter au-de$sus d'un 
moulin . . . 

PS. I wish they had a shaft in the Viceroy's house for inconvenient 
files; and another, a little larger, for really inconvenient Members of 

15 April 1944 
My dear Chief, 

I am sending you a few paragraphs from my book, in which you 
appear. I hope you will approve, but if not, like the politician's principles, 
' they can always be altered.' The book is about two-thirds done now, and 
is supposed to be a picture of the Young Effendi ; it is hard on him to make 
him stand all by himself in the middle of the canvas, so there is a sort of 
Cinquecento of the Middle East, with camel caravans walking through 
history and people fighting in tanks : rather like one of those Persian 
miniatures with no perspective. I am calling it East is West, as it is 
supposed to make Americans think of Arabs as Effendis instead of Sheikhs. 
The book has anyway given me pleasant hours remembering far more 
than I can put down about the days in Cairo and after. . . . Here on these 

1 * One very hot morning in Baghdad I took eight files from my assistant and burnt 
them : I kept them down, like Richelieu's Academy, to a fixed number, and when 
they went above it, sacrificed what seemed the least important.' (Letter October 



high moors everything looks small and remote as if seen through the 

wrong end of a telescope 

Do you know this poem ? 

We feel, at least, that silence here were sin, 

Not ours the fault if we have feeble hosts 

If easy patrons of their kin 

Have left the last free race with naked coasts ! 

They knew the precious things they had to guard : 

For us, we will not spare the tyrant one hard word. 

Tho' niggard throats of Manchester may bawl, 

What England was, shall her true sons forget ? 

We are not cotton-spinners all, 

But some love England and her honour yet. 

And these in our Thermopylae shall stand, 

And hold against the world this honour of the land. 

It sounds like 1940, but it was Tennyson in 1852 ! 

The book got written, in spite of that epic autumn's temptations 
to think of other things. Friends in the Middle East, Reginald 
Davies, Brigadier Glubb, Bernard Reilly (by then in the Colonial 
Office), Harold MacMichael and many others, found time to give 
me help and information, emerging from the wan But the heart 
was now drawn nearer home. By the end of September the guer- 
rillas were fighting on the mountains in view of my Asolo windows. 
In November, General Wilson wrote from Caserta : 

Dear Miss Freya, 

... It is very kind of you to say such nice things about me though I 
wonder you did not say something about my hide being tough. Certainly 
include my remark about Missions ; I have always had a poor opinion of 
them. Of course I will send you a photograph and enclose two so that you 
can choose which you would Bke for yourself and for the book. 

I am sorry to say we have not got sufficiently far north to liberate your 
house yet. There has been very hard fighting in the Apennines and our 
progress has been slowed up by torrents of rain. One wonders why 
people came to Italy to live. Since mid-September the rain has exceeded 



what one would expect in the west of Ireland and there are bridges 
washed away which have stood for centuries, not to mention the tem- 
porary ones that have been put up to replace demolition. They tell me the 
Arno is up to its banks in Florence which I believe has rarely been known 

I have just got back from a three-day visit to Athens. I was almost 
overwhelmed by the welcome there. They gave Anthony Eden, the 
Admiral and myself the Freedom of the City on the Acropolis. . . . We 
were there on the 28th October which was the day the Italians attacked 
Greece from Albania and which coincided with the March on Rome. 
There were services in the cathedral and a visit to the tomb of the Un- 
known Soldier, and the Greeks started by sending a band to play *Tip- 
perary' under my window at 6.15 a.m. 

I hope that when your book is finished you will be able to come east 
again. Cannot you get the M. of I. to send you out here for a spell ? 

By now the fat hazel nuts were falling out of their sockets and 
rowan berries like flame licked the old stone walls round the edges 
of the moors. Cottages tucked away in hollows from the south- 
west wind grew mosses in their thatch and descended, probably 
unchanged, from Elizabethan days. Damp and uncomfortable as 
they were, the mere walking by them inspired peace, 'and the living 
there must surely do something similar inside one?' I had come 
home, and felt myself once more, walking and riding, diinHng and 
reading, a part of my own land. 

In London, when the book was done, the 1944 winter passed 
through its squalor; fuel was scarce, service scarcer, and the V2 
had added itself to the Vi as an outlet from this world* Complica- 
tions of rationing made The Antelope pub round the corner the only 
comfortable way to deal with meals, and one stepped from the snow 
and the surly blackout into a warm and genial atmosphere of 
friendliness and beer. What I did in those months I can scarcely 
remember, except that I was waiting for a chance to reach Italy. 
Faces are lost in the shadows friends from the Middle East and 
others from before Osbert Lancaster, Harold Nicolson, Victor 
Cunard with whom one could talk of Venice, Archie John Wavell 



whose loss in Kenya is one of the saddest landmarks of later years. 
Here and there a gleam of civilization throws a gentle light as if 
through the Dark Ages, as when Ronald Storrs asked me to dine in 
the gloom of his club and I found him beside a bottle of old claret, 
brought up wrapped in a napkin from the country and warming 
by an almost invisible fire. 

In this interval of suspense, with the allied advance in the Apen- 
nines held up, Lady Wavell asked me to work for her in India. A 
committee of the W.V.S. had been formed there with a pro- 
gramme which, she wrote, *is beyond me and anyway I have not 
the time.' A plan was wanted to interest the Indian women, and she 
asked me out to look at the problem and suggest what I could. The 
Indian and Pakistan members of her committee welcomed the idea 
with a friendliness that touched me; and my book was finished. 
I accepted, with a promise from the Viceroy to be wafted to Venice 
on the first news of its liberation; and left England in the coldest 
snap of the winter, in a flying-boat with three generals, held up for 
five days in Poole Harbour by ice. 



KARACHI February 1945 
My dear Gerald [de Gaury] 

It has taken all this time to get so far, and the suffering: sitting on ice 
for a week and up with false hopes in darkness every morning. I can 
hardly bear to think of the congealed hands of the poor little Wren 
coping with frozen ropes on our launch before sunrise every day. A dust- 
storm in Cairo blurred banks as we touched down; but Owen Tweedy 
came to meet me and I was carried off to the Embassy which was Arabian 
Nights eating off silver, flowers everywhere, a maid to unpack and press 
one's gown. Jackie was kind as she always is and seven or eight friends 
were there. Lots of gossip, not for writing. We got into nice weather at 
Bahrein and for the first time felt comfortable. The Sunderlands are like 
tame dolphins, their shape a tribute to the designing of nature with all the 
right fish-lines for swimming. Karachi, the Americans say, *is half the 
size of Chicago cemetery and twice as dead' : I am spending my one day 
in bed instead of looking at it, before going on to Delhi where, the 
Americans also say, 'you needn't be mad but it helps.' 

An English pattern of W.V.S. was, as Lady Wavell had written, 
unlikely to appeal to a foreign intelligentsia panting for indepen- 
dence. It was the old story, the need of the Easterners to be dealt 
with from their own angle their interests supreme and to make it 
plain to them that they were so. After a two months' experiment 
we planned a group of four women, Indian and English, whose 
business it would be not to organize, but to travel about as mes- 
sengers of goodwill. Mere friendliness had rarely been tried un- 
connected with any effort to make them do the punctual things they 
hate ; coming from the Vicereine, one could see, even after a short 



time, that the result could be happy and in the course of three or 
four years a noticeable change, we felt, might yet be achieved. The 
plan was blessed by the Indian Treasury with a lakh of rupees, but 
was born too late to be of service, for the Vicereine herself and her 
messengers were stepping with British India off the stage. All that 
remains is a happy unproductive half-year in my memory. 

I found Delhi an enchanting landscape of ruins, tombs and for- 
tresses long crumbled, where (I was reading Beroier and the times of 
Aurungzebe) one could picture Mogul palanquins passing between 
scarlet pennants of English broadcloth that decorated the gun- 
barrels of the Indian musketeers. The Wavells were away and had 
left the Viceregal gardens open to the public. It was extraordinary 
how alive and agreeable it made them. There is no point in having 
pomp unless there is a crowd to enjoy it, and the splendour so shut 
away from everybody had made most of New Delhi seem dead. 

A few days after arrival I describe a review where five Victoria 
Crosses were given to Indian troops. 

3 March 1945* 

It was a gende, pearl-grey morning, and the regiments of the decorated 
soldiers were there on the dry grass outside the Mogul fort its moat and 
red walls and the mosque of Shah Jehan screened by still leafless trees and 
a huge crowd round them. The V.C. families sat on two long benches 
just behind the Viceroy: three were dead, so two widows and a mother 
were there to take the honour, wrapped in veils. The litde Mahratta 
widow's face was uncovered, one could see how frightened she was, in 
the arena with the Gurkha band behind her and Baluchis and Punjabis, 
the most terrific warriors, on either side. The AJD.C.s, looking as if it 
were agony, walked at a slow step in front of H.E. as he inspected. Then 
the citations were read in army Hindustani into which a good fourth of 
English seems to have entered. It must be wonderful to step out to take 
your decoration with your fellows at attention behind you. In the old 
days, a year or two ago, this ceremony was performed with, only the 
members of the Government present: can you believe it and then be 
surprised that we are not popular? Now the troops marched past the 
Indian Navy; the British, looking tough, in a casual way as if they scarce 
knew it themselves; the Baluchis, every one like a scimitar out of the 

1 To G. de Gaury. 


desert; the Rajputs, magnificent, very slim and straight, with litde fierce 
moustaches ; the Gurkhas, throwing out their chests with the quick short 
step of the hills. The Moguls spent their time watching their armies 
march and one can see why. We were a very grand party with a charming 
Rajah in a tobacco-brown redingote, white jodhpurs, gold slippers, and a 
mauve and yellow muslim turban sweeping like a veil Rajah of Risalpur 
I think with a face like a Persian picture and agreeable company: and 
Patiala who is six foot four and looks as if he thought nothing at all of any 
human being and not very much of God ! It is very grand to be the 
'house party' ; the crowd is asked not to move till we do (but it does). 

I had a suite in the Viceroy's house and gave little dinners and 
made no attempt to penetrate Indian politics, but enjoyed Rafiq 
Anwar dancing in loose silk drawers and a naked torso against a 
bkck curtain the only music (except for two drums played by a 
man squatting there with fine nervous hands), the sound of Anwar's 
bare heel on the stage and the small crash of his anklet bells ; and in 
the interlude, an old man in a long black coat with gilt buttons sat 
cross-legged on a Bokhara rug with a slim ivory-inlaid instrument 
called a sitar. A fretted metal lamp hung above him, as if some 
Mogul painting were alive. 

Another five-hour entertainment was acted for us by the house- 
hold staff, and we were able to take an hour or two to sup and rest 
and returned to find the heroine in no worse case than when we 
left her. 

The girls chosen among the lift-boys were a tough-looking lot. 
The sign of a lady was a handkerchief held to the face every few minutes 
with an enormous hand. There was an Elizabethan character to the play 
prose, poetry, songs, comic interludes, length, all in character; and some 
of the songs were charming. The heroine was carried away by bandits, 
the prince got into the wrong zenana, nothing could impair their virtue 
and they said so at improbable length ; and Peter Coats and I sat on a sofa 
in the front, garlanded with blossoms. We went to congratulate, but the 
cast instantly relapsed into cawasses at attention in their incongruous 
dothes. 1 

A football match was less traditional, between a local team and one 
descending in parachute from the air puppets swinging down from the 

1 9-345. 



blue sky, shot out of their aeroplane like pellets and turning into men as 
they came down one or two landing among a crowd extremely agile 
in making room. The Air-Marshal was next me, preoccupied till the 
descent was over because, he said, 'people ask questions if someone gets 
killed/ The Moguls would have enjoyed the football and probably 
asked no questions. Their city last-but-one (there have been seven 
Delhis) made a background of faded walls and turret-pagodas, a gate with 
blue tiles and a pleasure-dome on a hillock, where once the elephant 
processions and all the colour must have glowed. 1 

I believe [I wrote at this time], 2 that when the history of the British 
Empire comes to be written, the reason for its difficulties and perhaps 
eventual fall will be found in its never having really bothered about 
education. That control includes everything else the one thing .we should 
cling to, and the first we let go. I was hearing last night that it was what 
we first handed over to the provincial Indian Governments and that some 
of their teachers are paid six rupees a month (what a private gets in the 
Yemen Army), and the buildings are all falling to ruin. I do think this is a 
legitimate grievance, and it is the same in other places. In Aden we only 
recently started the school for young sultans, and it is already affecting the 
whole country. In Cyprus we never bothered to see that English was 
taught ! Palestine, I remember your telling me, had no technical school 
available. When you think of the influence of a place like Beirut Univer- 
sity, you realize that we could (and should) have kept a guiding hand on 
all our Empire by education alone. As we don't think it matters much for 
our own people, I suppose we never think of it as a power among others. 

We now have a house crammed with. Rajahs and an investiture on 
Saturday. I wonder whether it is all really passing away? One still has 
one's nightdress pressed every day, and a cawass at the door ready to carry 
notes (no bells or modern things like showers). 

With so. much written by more expert fens than mine, and so 
much knowledge available about these last phases of the English rule 
in India, it would be an arrogant attempt to give a connected account 
of my five months there as an amateur. I choose from my letters the 
vignettes that I best remember loosely strung as they are and 
threaded as if by chance, and divided in a sudden and arbitrary way 
into those written to Lady WaveU about her W.V.S., and those 

1 19,2.45- 

a To G* <k Gatiry 19.2,45* 



written in a rapture over the novelty of India to other friends. Most 
of the former are of no interest now and I omit them; my business 
being to visit the institutions that the Indian women were running for 
themselves, I was thrown as it were into the arms of philanthropy, 
for which I have a natural repugnance unless its stern features relax 
into some human face. Too often it assumes that the benefit is for 
the recipient, and not for those fortunate enough to be able to give. 
As soon as this occurs, love and kindness die and rancour follows, 
and the terrible and cruel mask of power. This happened, I thought, 
more rarely in India than elsewhere, and even in these letters * cheer- 
fulness', as Dr. Johnson's friend said, *is always breaking through' ; 
but there was a great deal of the team spirit for someone as solitary 
as I am to suffer : ' everyone has been helpful and deluged me in the 
Evidence of Progress. I have visited a model village (swept for the 
occasion), and milk centres, the women's hospitals, literary classes, 
recreation centres and deaf and blind and cottage industries. How I 
dislike it all not India but philanthropy in general ! I am sure, 
however, that this is the only way ; if one doesn't take an interest one 
may as well be out of India altogether. So I sat about everywhere 
with garlands round my neck and ended up yesterday by addressing 
the village industry and enclose my speech because I am most 
anxious to hear that you approve of it. It has gone down very well 
and the knowledge that you are anxious to know what they are 
doing evidently touches them. A middle-aged woman, with a hard 
philanthropic face, got up and said that it was money and not kind- 
ness alone they want from Lady Wavell. I said, " She is not Lakshmi, 
the goddess of wealth" and this was greeted with joy while the old 
lady who introduced me, who is the pioneer of the emancipated 
women here, went for the Congress woman hammer and tongs in 
Canarese : I don't know what they said, but it seemed all right. I feel 
sure that, if you can keep half a dozen people of the right sort in 
touch with all these young and emotional women, you will see 
quite a strong and friendly feeling in two or three years' time. But 
what a job ! But it would be much more useful than a particular 
separate venture of your own.' 1 

My tour began in the Central Provinces and went on to Hyderabad, 

1 To Lady "Wavell 22.3.45. 

[ 2 34] 


where the beautiful Princess of Berar, shut like an imprisoned god- 
dess in her palace, felt like a friend 'and welcomed our plan "if it 
is kept clearly for our service : if it tries to manage and organize us, 
it will be only one more burden added". What everyone likes is 
the idea of having some direct contact with you in Delhi but the 
provincial LC.S. need to have it very gently suggested ... It is 
awful to be received as an organizing woman '. 1 

In Madras 'I saw the W.V.S. and a Home for Fallen Women (not 
that they had anything to do with each other), and pottered round 
St. Thomas's Mount with Charles Harding who has been very kind 
and helpful' ; then half a day and night in Trichinopoly, and south 
to Travancore, where the Diwan a charming person expounded 
ideas I had thought of as my own. 

1 returned by Mysore, and 6 what is left of me hopes to be in Delhi 
on the loth of April. A delightful morning among the ruins of 
Seringapatam, fascinated by Scott's bungalow, especially the por- 
traits of Wellington, and tried to be driven to the jungle but they 
were afraid I might meet an elephant one longs for elephants after 
so many good works P 

The second tour took me to Mhow straight out of Kipling 'with 
brigadiers' wives not on speaking terms and W.V.S. like Solomon's 
baby between them. Luckily one was away and the other very 
nice with whom I stayed, invited all the Indian workers with no 
friction. They kept on saying how wonderful it was of you to think 
of people working in Mhow. This is very often the reaction and 
makes me feel it is worth going about, and especially to the smaller 
places.' 2 

In Udaipur, where I next went, it was hard to tear oneself away to 
look at schools 'co-education at that, with forty boys and two 
hundred and thirty girls if you please/ Yet here as in so many of 
these ventures, in their poverty and enthusiasm, the human spirit 
was too strong for any committee, and a warm feeling grew for Dr. 
Mohan Singh Mehta who had started thirteen years before and did 
all by kindness, with a great deal of dancing, painting, and physical 
training. 'They have an English woman teacher and an Austrian 

* To Lady WarveH 28445. 

2 To Lady Wavdl 2*445. 



ex-explorer, and the Indians are genuine and I thought them charm- 
ing; and though they are out-and-out nationalists, and think 
everything will be all right when they are independent, the idea of 
your having sent me just to give a message of goodwill touched 
them none the less and they said that "it does a great deal of good to 
create more understanding ". You see what nonsense it is when 
people tell one it is not necessary to go to the States. ... As we 
came away Ranbir Singh, who takes me round, was smoothing 
down his moustaches and stroking his sword and saying in an angry 
growl: "I suppose they think Freedom is a thing one can keep by 

UI>AIPUR 24 April 194$ 

I have again seen the headmaster and had the English teacher to tea. 
She looks almost more like a mouse then a female, with a pointed chin and 
sharp little teeth and straight black short hair, and here she is all alone in 
this Indian school, trying to live in a more or less Indian way and bicycling 
about in the dust ; and, with the wonderful imperviousness of our people, 
might be in Clapham for all the influence India has on her. We went and 
saw the 'Literacy Centre* where about forty women come to a dilapidated 
house to learn to read and write. This is run by the kasturla fund and is all 
Gandhi, very ready to be friendly if anyone ever took the trouble to go 
and visit it. It is run by a middle-aged pair who talk no English. They 
have a dreary playground with swings for children among heaps of 
rubble, and a hostel to train women to work in villages. So far there are 
only three pretty young women and no training as far as I could see, but 
neat litde rooms arranged in the old house and the girls are supposed to 
spend three years here, and there is a Superintendent. It is touching, and I 
feel it is a pity not to see these people (without offending them by trying 
to interfere). Their library is open to men by day and to women in the 
evening, with lots of Hindi papers, and I thought one might send them a 
present of books ? All this education is going on with such a struggle and 
against a huge wall of difficulties. . . . 

And my last report from Udaipur telling of a tea-party with the 
Red Cross ladies, sums up the feeling that I have now carried about 
the East with me for over thirty years that 'more can be done out- 
side these regular gatherings than in. One has to go among the high- 
ways and byways among the people who are out on adventures of 



their own to do any real good, I think. The P.M.'s wife came, very 
small in the peculiarly difficult sari of the Mahrattas pulled up be- 
tween their legs (they say it was so as to ride to war with their hus- 
bands, but no one could ever have expected that of Mrs. P.M.) ; she 
looked at me with blinking eyes as if your message were part of the 
sewing bundle she had to take away with her. Because there is no 
initiative of their own in these meetings, I find the ineffectual things 
they manage for themselves much more cheerful.' 

So far as I am concerned, the note of rapture is absent from com- 
mittee meetings however tuneful they may be, and what I enjoyed 
was to write to Gerald de Gaury and describe the asphalt roads of 
Hyderabad with lamps like round moons, and white villas in gardens, 
and the Regency Residency with Sir Arthur Lothian rather Regency 
inside it, and picnic in a garden by the lakeside with the Prime 
Minister, the Nawab of Chatari, who had been invited from the 
north (so sensible to bring in ministers when necessary from outside). 
There he sat, in a coat of apricot satin with a row of gold buttons 
and a diamond in each down the front, and four smaller of the same 
pattern on his sleeves, and a narrow face behind a rampart of black 
moustache, sharply waxed; and enjoyed the sunset hour; and drove 
me back by ridges where the oldest rocks of the world are tumbled, 
that have never been under the sea so he told me while the ball of 
the sun went down behind Golconda, its bastions and battlements 
and inner encircling walls. He told me how Aurungzebe attacked 
from the direction in which we were driving, and how the King of 
Golconda was standing by one of his gunners who declared he could 
kill the Mogul with a shot. The King took him by the arm and said : 
"Do not shoot ; it is not fit for an ordinary man to kill a king/' Even 
so Mr. Pitt, I told the Nawab, sent back a Frenchman who tad 
offered to assassinate Napoleon, though perhaps the King of Gol- 
conda would have acted differently if he had known what Aurung- 
zebe was like. I climbed up one enchanted morning to see the sun- 
rise over his Deccan through the open stone windows from the 
throne which he lost and thought how fortunate I was to see places 
with names like Golconda ! 

Because of the size of this book one goes hastily by these places 
Trichinopoly for instance climbing up the inside of its mountain, 


where the stairs are tunnelled and painted, and columned temple 
halls are cut out of the rock with hideous gods ; and through Travan- 
core to the tip of India where some long, fantastic mountain range 
dies in a series of improbable outlines. The coconut palms and 
lagoons disappear, and one stands on a headland where the sun comes 

up upon our left 
Out of the sea comes he; 
And he shines bright and on our right 
Goes down into the sea. 

There, near by, is the old capital Trivandrum walled round an 
empty space with a green mountain behind it, its stones built jutting 
up into the walls so that the defenders could scramble anywhere 
inside it; for they were a warlike people, in spite of living in a 
country where coconut, banana, mango, tapioca, and anything one 
need desire is within a reach of the hand; they beat the Dutch, and 
the surrendering major reorganized their army and spent the rest of 
his life among them. Their old palace is a mass o v f sloping tiles and 
sharp carved gables, and the Hindu figures in the frescoed room 
bring out of their thirteenth century the same smiling gaiety as the 
archaic Greek marbles impassive but not comfortable, for no 
human misery can touch it. The temple towers in this country go 
up mitre-shaped, as crammed with active little sculptures as any- 
thing can be, and feel like the dark wedge-shaped nests of bees that 
hang from Mogul arches round Delhi. I liked these temples, opened 
to all castes of Hindu but not to us, so that I could only glance in 
passing at huge and pillared halls. Round them, in Travancore, 
there was a cathedral-close atmosphere in the streets and houses, the 
narrow loggias on wooden columns, and the tiled roofs and sub- 
roofs over shops. It was beguiling to see paganism believed in. 

I sat next the Maharajah last night and asked him if he did not feel 
very moved by the ceremonies and procession of which he and the gods 
were the centre during the last few days and he said, yes, he did and 
indeed one could see it by his whole bearing. He is young and very 
sensitive and gentle and it must be a terrific responsibility to feel that you 


are the only means by which, the gods can do anything for your people 
they can't even leave the temple unless he fetches them ! 

The most fascinating was to see all this mythology come to life in the 
Kathakali dancing still popular here in any village or temple feast. The 
court keep it under their wing and it is not being modernized, and boys 
are trained from eight years old to make their fingers supple for the sixty- 
four movements they play about with like lightning. We saw it in one of 
the old royal palaces, where, as we watched with the Maharajah's family, 
dinner was brought to each on a small table, and the stage was lit by eight 
or nine wicks floating in oil. Here a chorus stood draped in white from 
the naked waist downward, chanting the story with a beat now and then 
of drums. The actors' costumes were red or yellow short crinolines on 
thin legs ankleted with bells ; shoulder-tassels hang for the dancer to play 
with, and 'halo-hats' and ear-rings big as saucers for the kings. Their 
masks were rice, creamed and wetted on the face so that it remained 
supple a three-hour process and coloured according to the character 
conveying drama by the movements of eyes and eyebrows. The white of 
the eye is reddened to show in the painted features ; and as for the hands, 
even a country audience would notice the slightest deviation from their 
traditional gestures : the left wore daw-like nails of metal the old sign 
of a gentleman of leisure (I remember as a child in Italy the nails left long 
on people's little fingers to show they need do no manual work). The 
saga's climax was the princess's choice of a mortal among four gods 
wooing her for her beauty (she was a singularly tough-looking boy). 

When the scene changed & curtain held across the middle of the 
stage for a minute the four gods were sitting there a blue-masked god 
of water, a white-masked god of sky, a red-masked god of fire, and the 
fearful god of death, their legs tucked away under frills of their skirts and 
the king in the middle with his feet and dieir bells on the ground. The 
princess saw it, and knew that those who do not stand on earth must be 
immortal and like a sensible heroine chose her king. 1 

In Mysore, among trees with strange and scented flowers and 
new white domes, I describe a number of institutions * where 
people learn to be modern and dependent like those bullocks one 
sees in carts on dusty roads, leaning against each other because I 
suppose it makes the yoke seem lighter *. I turned more happily 
to tie ritual of the Indian servants. 

1 To G. dc Gaury 8,445* 


In Delhi, they stand up as you go by (and slow in doing that on a hot 
afternoon) and only really perform by raising their hands in white gloves 
above their heads when they each stand behind a chair and H.E. sits down 
to lunch or dinner. In Travancore everyone holds his fingers in front of 
his mouth the Maharajah does this in the presence of the gods and it is a 
gentle gesture. Here in Mysore as one goes about the palace they stand 
like statues with arms folded and head bowed. As I drove up the hill to 
the sunset, an old gate-keeper at the palace at the top knelt and put his 
forehead to the ground at sight of the Government car. If you are used to 
burning incense to a bull, you may just as well say your prayers to a 
governor, and paganism seems to make one very uncertain as to where to 
draw the line. But even as a very tiny satellite whirling in the divine orbit 
I can see how boring it must be to be the centre of adoration. Women 
often find this out without being at all royal, when people fall in love 
with them and agree with everything they say. Here, the Maharajahs 
have their domestic goddess 'His Highness's private goddess*, the charm- 
ing gay Brahmin superintendent told me yesterday ; she lives in the temple 
on the hill. A beautiful young Brahmin with very long, fine features and a 
white coarse wrap thrown about him came out as I went there in the sunset 
and offered me a scented flower. A line of steps leads up flanked by the square 
and squat Hindu pillars, and there is a pleasant feeling of worship going 
on all the time; the peculiar objects don't seem to matter very much 
cobras aad monkeys and mice come in, and an endless supply of pictures 
and stories. I think one could get fond of the gentleness and 'earthiness' 
of it all, though I can't understand shedding our own for something so far 
back in time. 1 

I flew back from Mysore to Delhi and wrote to Jock (174.45) that 
my work seemed, promising, if I could obtain .6,000 'not much 
if it gets the women of India to like us ! I am away again to Raj- 
putana, for a fortnight if I get back at all, as it is a wee Argus I fly in. 
I believe it has double controls, so I can hold that stick . . . What 
reconciles one with death is that life is so comp Heated with small things 
zip-fasteners that get out of order, clothes shrinking in the wash, 
mourning for Roosevelt, proofs delayed in the post: one will at 
any rate be clear of all that. The great dancer here says that he 
sinned with a dancing girl and so has to spend all this incarnation, 
expiating it by dancing (a very pleasant way of doing it too). So 

1 To G. de Gaury 8.4.45. 



perhaps all these vexations are just things left over from the Time 

In Rajputana, the whiteness of Udaipur cast its inevitable spell of 
age and fragility. At any moment, it seemed to me, the cloud- 
capped palaces might peel, the plaster come away, and the whole 
thing crumble like a Hollywood creation ; yet the eaves of the doll's- 
house shops were held up by elephants' heads that belonged to times 
long before the Moguls, and the dim whitewash, streaked by the 
monsoons, broke everywhere into kiosks or doors of lace-worked 
arches, where women stood on steps, their bell-like skirts swinging 
above their anklets and two pitchers at a time upon their heads. All 
colour was lovely and all movement graceful, even to the pigeons* 
ballet round the water-pakce cupolas in the lake. The white build- 
ings at sunset took on a cloud-like gentleness and two zenanas with 
their blank white height made the beauty of the view. A princess 
within them had been so ravishing that both Udaipur and Jaipur 
wished to marry her, and her father fearing trouble ordered her 
death; but the jailer himself could not harden his heart; so that she 
had to take her own poison, and a curse fell for six generations on the 
reigning house. Every room in the palace must have its story 
rooms glass-floored, or lined with Chinese tiles, or roof gardens with 
marble fountains, or sudden rich pavilions; narrow staircases, and 
treasuries where clerks squat counting bank-notes as one passes, 
while elephants painted all over munch their hay in the courts below. 
In the town, old Rajput noblemen rode through the streets white 
eyebrows and a yellow satin turban, and a white beard brushed from 
a parting to either side; or a wedding, where the bridesmaids 
wrapped in red and orange walked singing behind the groom. He, 
in a red coat striped with tinsel and green satin turban, fourteen years 
old perhaps, rode with a small brother on his crupper and his bride 
buried among females behind him in a cab. An old Muslim fakir 
came after, in a rich gown seated in an open gharry, grey hair in 
waves over his shoulders. Outside the town, where the lake is sur- 
rounded like the background of Florentine pictures with low and 
pleasant but empty hills, the Government feeds the wild pig from a 
high terrace every afternoon. Out of the scrub they come, grunting 
and pushing, a Circe .crowd, until their heap of maize is eaten and 


they vanish into the exile of their wildness leaving as it were a Mil- 
tonic echo behind them which has insinuated itself ever since into 
my memory of Udaipur. I think of it too as what India might have 
been without any Muslim invasion, with its wars and its feasts and 
its fashions and the good-looking faces of its people ; and a talent for 
painting walls and houses were decorated with figures of women, 
elephants, horsemen, tigers ; and in the schools a small boy weak on 
figures had painted a brown mountain with the points of lances 
showing behind it and a shower of bright green arrows crossing the 
foreground towards them, an epitome, in a pleasingly natural sur- 
realist manner, of the Rajput history. 

The whole of Rajputana carried this enchantment even Jodhpur, 
a dull place otherwise, had the hands of its royal widows modelled 
on a slab within its gate. There they pressed them as they went to 
be burnt on their husbands' pyres, and the words they said as they 
did so, whether for blessing or cursing, were bound to come true; 
in the shadow of the gate, which is huge and its doors studded with 
spikes against the battering of elephants, there is an eloquence in 
those tiny hands, so different one from the other and so resigned. 

Jaipur, a walled town, was geranium-coloured with geranium 
gateways, and Sir Mirza Ismail, its Persian Prime Minister, was re- 
suscitating the fancies of bygone Maharajahs, repainting and refur- 
bishing them as new. Brass ornaments again caught the sun on 
cupolas drawn like eyebrows; the water-maze for swimmers was 
blue under pink cloisters; the balconies green against cream walls; 
and the high wall where one walked towards the gates above the 
traffic was streaked by shadow and sunlight under pagodas painted 
yellow and pink. The town itself was geranium-coloured by the 
genial caprice of some ruler long dead; and where the fa$ade$ had 
no ornament of whitewashed flags or flowers, the outlines of white 
windows were painted in for fun. The old palace, now abandoned, 
was above, in the neck of a valley, and there an elephant would take 
the ruler's guests. 

*Did you know they had pink ears ? It was so slow, with a circular 
motion, while the battlements of Amber drew nearer. They must 
have seen thousands of elephants in their day. One needn't climb 
stairs there is a sloping way built for the palanquins of the zenana. 



A man with a red sash and a black shield with brass bosses walked 
behind us. He hadn't shaved for a week or so. I suppose it was the 
minimum cortege an elephant can go out with.' 1 

'It is still a dream. I only came yesterday and it is very hot. I 
write badly, trying to keep my arm from moistening the paper, with 
nothing on except a cool little pair of Jaipur slippers embroidered 
with a gilt ornament over the point. What is so pleasant here is that 
the beauty is not confined to royal buildings as in most of India, 
but is just as much in the shops and private houses ; one forgets that 
empty feeling of nothing between the Rajah and the Poor.' 2 

My tour so dazzled me that a nostalgia for India has never left me. 
Many pictures must be lost, but many remain, seen from my Argus 
chiefly the endless plains, the spider-webs of village fields thinning 
to emptiness till the next spider-web begins to appear and life 
repeated rolls there from the mouth of Time like the Indian river 
heavy and slow with soil. I remember the crocodile ridges of Raj- 
putana fortress walls following the contours of their rocks. When 
we were safe in the air, my pilot allowed me to hold the double 
control, and I would feel like a leaf in the wind, moving once when 
a rainbow met above us and below us as if in a slanting halo. 

By the end of April I was back in Delhi, in the routine that con- 
tinued while the Viceroy struggled in London with his hard and 
lonely task. Notes and meetings came dropping in : Peter Fleming 
over the hump from Chungking; Ronald Storrs, Harold Mac- 
Michael and many others passing through; Claude Auchinleck our 
C.-in-C. entertaining his 15th Punjabis; the Caseys, Edith Evans, 
Joyce Grenfell, friends and acquaintances: one lunched in wet 
bathing-dresses to keep cool, by the swimming-pool under red 
umbrellas and a white colonnade, where the noises of the war 
seemed for a while excluded. 

On the 6th of May I went up to Simla, where the Colvilles 3 soon 
came up for a few pleasant weeks during the Viceroy's absence. 
1 To Austen Harrison, April 1945. 
* To Mrs. Otto Kabn, April 1945. 
8 Then Governor of Bombay (later Lord Qydesmuir). 


My work is finished [I wrote to Gerald de Gaury], my successor found, 
nothing further can be done till Their Ex's return and till the Political 
Secretary rootles round for the necessary funds. It is a good scheme, and 
the people I think the most intelligent are all keen so it ought to be all 
right and able to be left with a blessing a fortnight or so after Lady 
Wavell is back again. I thought I might as well go into the mountain 
air, and if I had been fit for it I would have gone off and seen the Hima- 
layas at much closer quarters. But I came back with neuritis in my feet, 
from fatigue they say, so it is better just to go and potter about the 
rhododendron slopes of Simla. 

It is a funny thing, but I am getting more and more frightened as the 
freeing of Venice comes nearer. So afraid of what misery there may be. 
They must be in Vicenza, just one hour from my home. 

My heart was in Italy now. Scarcely a letter passes without some 
line of longing. 

To Moore Crosthwaite 1 1 wrote on May 20, 'I found your letter 
from Teheran. Glad I was to think of you there, when all the poplar 
leaves were coming out. Civilizations may be poor human efforts, 
but how one misses them, and welcomes even the poorest, faintest 
of their footprints. My work here will be handed over on June 15. 
I call it very clever to persuade any Government to find a lakh of 
rupees, and the only reward I ask is to be deposited on the Lido 
aerodrome in a month's time. Dear Moore, if you can find out any- 
thing more definite about my poor nephew I will be thankful. 
They have not heard for certain, after all, that he is dead just van- 
ished into that mist of horror and unknown.* 

One has to deal with the agonies of life in literature [I wrote at this 
time] 2 but until they are transmuted into their own serene world, they 
are not literature. The people who escape them will never write anything 
permanent, I suppose ; but the whole process of transmutation has to be 
gone through, and the artist emerge on the other side. What a subject 
to begin when the post is just leaving. Soon I hope with a clear conscience 
to sit in Asolo and forget politics, and write a book of philosophy, quite 
small and easy and intended for all the world. I shall call it the art of 
getting old and it is the art I mean to cultivate. 

1 Sir Moore Crosthwaite, K.C.M.G., now our Ambassador to the Lebanon. 

2 To May Sarton 20.545. 




55 J2 


<! > 













Mohammed Alijinnah 
Liaqat Mi Khan 

Maulana Azad 
Mahatma Gandhi 


Charles Rankin Hugh Eiiston 

Archie John Wavell 


This book eventually appeared as Perseus in the Wind, but mean- 
while I chafed on the sophisticated ridge, though I was soon 
beginning to look and feel normal again. All the things one should 
do in mountains were beyond the Simla orbit, and one had to 
be extremely tough to walk, since every path led down immense 
slopes at great speed and one had to crawl up again. Down below 
one came into a simple remote mountain world of small tracks and 
tilted farms all I found touchingly decorated for Victory with 
strings of coloured papers. But I took only one long walk and found 
it too much for me, and stuck to the Viceroy's terraces designed by 
the Mintos and curtained by the Himalayas. There was a Scottish 
feeling about the grandeurs of the Viceregal Lodge in Simla built in 
tiers of woodwork round a baronial hall. 

27 May 1945*- 

It is not the Himalayas or any sort of mountain place at all, but a 
freak of woods and ridges with houses pouring do\yn their steepness like 
lava, dilapidated, Victorian, and corrupted by turret and pagoda fancies. 
There is a funny reminiscence of Venice I could not pin. down, till I 
realized it was the absence of cars and the crowd padding on. foot with 
rickshaws like gondolas railing out as they slip along. When four or five 
go in a line to a party each with a lantern over the shaft, and the men in 
red and blue with peaks and turbans all jogging together, it gives a holiday 
"feeling. After all these decades the rickshaw men have not learned to run 
in step ! 

June 1945* 

I am here longing for my own home ajid still quite ignorant as to wt&t 
has come to it. The Iveagh's house is all right, though looted. I expect to 
go and camp and have laid by a blanket, six towels and two rolls of toilet 
paper to start life with. H.E. is only just back with the future of India 
hanging r ound his neck * like Niobe, all tears * . He is writing to Alexander 
to ask if I may step oa to Italian soil Alexander seems to be handling 
Trieste in a very delicate way. My, what a world ! I would like to curl 
up in your pale blue room and talk of the Levant ! You will admit that 
every single forecast has come true? Except that one could never have 

* To Jeffery AmHerst. 
I To Memo Marriott. 


thought that De Gaulle would choose the one moment when everything, 
the new Arab League in its first gloss, the Security Pact just adolescent, 
military necessity for the Eastern transport, everything combined against a 
Syrian bonfire. 

Here everyone waits with bated breath while the cake is preparing to 
be cut and everyone will want his slice and to keep the whole cake also. 

I made Her Ex. a lovely plan and found a phoenix to work it but she 
is going to be divorced and therefore can't appear in court or vice-court 
circles ; this bombshell only just discovered and it seems impossible to 
find anyone else with charm and efficiency combined. (Why should they 
be so difficult to find together ?) 

14 June 1945 
My dear Gerald, 

There is, in spite of all the trouble seething, a pleasant feeling that a 
great many people are happy . . . and I hope to be so too. John Wharton 
brought a soothsayer tie handsomest old Punjabi Muslim you ever 
saw, with perfect features, very clear and straight. He told me that in 
about two months' time the best seven years of my life are to begin, with 
a journey overseas. He also said that I had a tiger-face and, asked what 
that meant, it appears that no one dares to be impertinent in one's presence. 
He then said there is a very rare line in my hand which preserves me from 
telling lies, flatteries, or feeling envy. Nice people, I thought, who feel it 
comforting to be assured of such virtues ; nobody in the West would 
think anything so non-utilitarian worth mentioning. 

There is quiet here at the moment, but the thunder of a tide approach- 
ing. Everyone pained at the fact that every secret instantly oozes out of 
the secret sessions of the Executive Council. I should be much more 
surprised if it didn't and do wonder how we keep our optimism in the 
face of years of oriental experience. 

H.E. visited Ibn Saud, as I expect you heard, and it sounds as if it had 
been successful both ways. Ibn Saud was pleased to find another great 
man with one eye and told him all the story of the conquest of Riyadh. 
H.E. is broadcasting the future of India tonight. It is an historic occasion, 
and strange how ordinary one feels in the middle of events. For one thing 
it is 1 15 in the shade and difficult to fed at all ! 

The conference in Simla was the last public event I witnessed 
during the war. 

Into the labyrinth of Indian politics I have no intention and indeed 



no knowledge to enable me to enter. I had known the Arab world 
for nearly twenty years, and had seen It in so many of its parts and 
from such diverse angles that I felt justified in having opinions about 
it. But the vastness of India was another matter, nor do I think that 
government palaces can be relied on for presenting general views. 
Over and over again in history one is surprised to watch the apparent 
stagnation with which dynasties and sovereignties drift to their des- 
tiny amid the tense activity of all the forces round them. In this case 
it was not so. Very wise and brilliant people were at work, and the 
Viceroy himself had a soldier's mind for realities ; he hoped, he once 
told me, to be allowed to withdraw in steps, keeping troops in the 
three chief centres until the transfer was accomplished, to avoid 
massacres which he foresaw and which eventually happened. But 
he rarely spoke of these things. Shut away amid the splendid rooms, 
he came to lunch from the morning's endless negotiations, files and 
minutes, with his atmosphere about him of unassailable integrity and 
lonely calm : and every one of us, devoted to him, would try to 
make the short interval pass lightly, with talk of books or sport or 
even mild scandal but never of politics or war. The events which 
might have filled my diary are absent, and only the husk of the 
Simla Conference where die chances of a Muslim-Hindu India rose 
to their last clash and vanished remains. 

In a letter of the 2nd of July I described it to Gerald de Gaury 
'opening with a sort of garden party on the lawn'. 

I photographed the leaders of the destinies of India rolling up in rather 
nondescript rickshaws, the Punjab premier the only elegant one with 
green runners under white puggarees and dark green pennants, the Con- 
gress with that rather dingy *more important to be good than beautiful* 
look : but Jinnah was very aristocratic and straight. He has a cruel face at a 
distance but nice when you come up close and see the delicate features and 
rather wrought-up glance, like a horse nervous before its race, and blue 
eyes speaking with intelligence. He is against everything both in his party 
and out of it and it remains to be seen if he plays at all, but has become 
much gender to talk to outside business and told Their Ex's that the rather 
formal litde family party they asked him to was the only bit of relaxation 
he had had. Typically, his venom is for the Muslim in Congress. After 
discussing neutral and pleasant things like Devonshire cream widi him, 



I talked to Maulana Azad, the leader of Congress not on speaking 
terms with Jinnali, whonot talking English was sitting apart under a 
tree chatting with white walrus-moustached Pandit Pant. The old 
Maulana has a charming face and a little pointed beard and goes in and out 
of prison in a natural way with no fuss all traits which seemed explained 
when he told me he was Arab with a father from Mecca. He was pleased 
(and surprised) to find a woman to chat with in Arabic and would I think 
have been happy to sit in the shade and forget the troubles of this world. 
It must be hid to run Congress with Gandhi round the corner limiting 
himself to 'advice*. Their Ex's now came down and talked to everyone, 
mollified the Press with a speech, and all went down to business ; but 
came up again for a buffet lunch chosen with care to include the religious, 
and we all (except Their Ex's) joined those who were not obviously 
gathered into incubating circles. They could not have been more pleasant 
and gentle to talk to, and if the future of India is settled it will be greatly 
due to HJB.'s personality and his goodwill which no one can mistake. 
One can see it having its effect. The AJD.C.'s too, and Archie John in 
particular, have been helping to make all happy and at ease. Gandhi, who 
came to tea in Lady WavelTs private sitting-room before the Conference 1 
and made (the A.D.C. told me) a very quaint picture, one with so 
many clothes and the other with so few on the same sofa beamed and 
melted at the sight of so many handsome and soldierly young men (we 
have a very nice-looking lot). The only person I felt was not particularly 
affected was Pandit Nehru, who came also before the Conference 
after a long talk with H.E. He sat with us at a tea-table under the wainscot, 
with weapons hung ornamentally around and a fire burning, and tables 
filled with Viceroy and Vicereine photographs, and huge vases of flowers, 
with Her Ex. on one side of him and me on the other, and secretaries and 
A.D.C.'s, and H.E, who came down to join us and everyone made him 
talk and was as nice as possible, yet I felt he was gnawing some sorrow 
inside him. He seemed to me a seeking soul, happy to follow a track if 
he could conscientiously do so ; and now by fate, or our unamiability 
perhaps, is made to oppose so that our pleasantness and all must make it 
worse. He never relaxed the defensive for a minute, but I would like a 
talk alone and to get him forgetful and see what is under it all. I may be 
quite mistaken: it was only female intuition while we sat at tea. He has 
a good-looking, regular, rather narrow-foreheaded face, very intelligent 
but without the apostolic force of the old Mahatma. The conversation 
took an unfortunate turn. Somebody mentioned the arrival of a circus 
1 On June 24. 



and Her Ex. came to life out of a placid daydream to say that she hated 
circuses because of the captive animals. 'Captives* said Mr. Nehru 
(just out of prison). 'Yes/ said Her Ex. unaware of everybody's frantic 
but paralysed efforts to think of another topic. 'Behind bars, you know/ 
'Yes/ said Nehru, eloquently. An A.D.C. pulled himself together and 
rescued the conversation just in time. 

On the second day of the Conference, Charles Rankin and I went to 
look at a crowd waiting for the Mahatma to come to his prayers. Politics 
were blazing from loud-speakers. Everyone was friendly. They seem to 
regard ' Quit India* as a sort of formula like Heil Hitler or Gruss Gott. We 
went on and there, coming out from his house, was the old Gandhi with a 
man clearing a way for him with a stick, and an Indian woman on one 
side supporting him and a white-haired English one, elongated, gentle, 
and the sort who belongs to the S.P.C.A. on the other ; and the old man in 
between, his legs very spindly, his head sunk, his white sheet barrelling 
in the wind about him, looking neither right nor left, and the noise of the 
crowd evidently like the sound of grasshoppers that have become a 
burden. Who would be a Saint ? Or at any rate so recognized by con- 
temporaries ? When a photographer came and stood right in front of him 
he could bear it no longer, snatched the man's camera, and tossed it into 
the air with surprising vigour. 

On the third day of the Conference, I went down with blood- 
poisoning from a silly scratch on my heel (like Achilles). If it weren't for 
these new drugs I suppose I might be dead; as it is the disease was sup- 
pressed in three days, though a horrid gash remains, and I am suffering 
from the remedy one of these M & B. things that leave one suicidally 
minded. When at the lowest, Field-Marshal Alexander's telegram came 
with 'orders' for me to go to Venice: this would have cheered me in my 
grave. I leave as soon as the doctor allows and that is, I hope, the I2th, so 
that I may be in either Rome or Venice in a fortnight's time. I have also 
good news of my little niece married to a partisan, and comforting news 
of the poor youngest, who was killed with the partisans, in action and, 
thank God, not caught. 

H.E. has found time to come and sit for a chat by my bedside while I 
was laid up (I go down to one meal a day now). I shall tniss them all. I 
have never been surrounded by more nice people all at once everyone is 
gentle and thoughtful and no one says horrid things about the others it 
makes a happy climate. 

We are in the monsoon. I went out yesterday in a rickshaw and the 
rain came pelting down as if a whole series of waterspouts were about Us. 



Roaring brown cataracts fill every creek and gutter, dashing to the plains 
and filling the slow rivers. The rickshaws are closed with glass windows 
in front, Hke Sedan-chairs, and one just sees the eyes of the other rickshaw 
men as one lurches by them. It rains for hours or drifts in mists, but then 
all is drawn away like a curtain, mountains appear, the plains shining with 
Jhelum river, and all the great waves of hillside turn green day by day. 

Simla was gloomy when I left on the nth of July. Jinnah had 
annoyed H.E., whose patience had seemed unbreakable, by strolling 
in to him with a lighted cigar in his hand, and had dashed the Con- 
ference to the ground. 

I asked H.E. when he expected it to finish, and he said "Will it ever 
finish?" I think he is very disappointed. Jinnah does not want a unified 
India, not with any number of Muslim votes, as it would defeat Pakistan ; 
and the only good of the Conference is that it has made it clear that 
Britain is not the obstacle ; I should say it is also pretty clear that she alone 
can (if anyone) keep those two parties together at all. If it were not for 
the anxiety to go to Italy, I should hate to go just at this time. It is sad to 
leave. And what shall I do without four AJD.C/s and a secretary or two 
arranging all our lives ? I am, in fact, very tired. Their Ex's have asked 
me to come back, but I am sure one ought now to do what one can in 
one's own centre and get ordinary life back to normal if one can. 1 

I flew in a fifteen-hour day from Karachi to Cairo over the 
Southern Desert and the Nefud 2 where travellers quail, and looked 
down on its twisted aimless valleys and on Jauf which I had always 
wondered about and now knew I should never have the slightest 
wish to visit. In the late afternoon we saw Petxa on the wrinkled 
defencible edge that rings the plateau of Arabia. I had the whole of 
the Sunderland flying-boat to myself as there were no other pas- 
sengers, and they let me sit in the control cabin and scan the im- 
mense sun-drenched horizon. It seemed strange for so huge a fish 
to be going so far across dry land (and how dry). I vaguely remem- 
bered a Virgilian eclogue that said something about it. 

Three days in Cairo with the Bernard Burrows, seeing friends, in 

1 To G. de Gaury 14.6.45. 

2 Sand-dune stretch of the desert of Nejd. 



an atmosphere that had lost the precarious zest of the desert war. 
Then I flew by night, touched at North African and Sicilian air- 
fields piled with wrecks, landed on the 2oth of July at Rome, and 
after a week there with the kind Halfords and several frustrated 
efforts, was finally landed in Treviso. One third of that little town 
had been shattered by ten-minute bombing twice repeated, and my 
heart sank when I saw the skeleton roofs and wondered what home 
I should find. An army lorry took me next day, and from the 
southern road my house at the top of the hill appeared intact. The 
garden gate was open; the front door-bell brought Emma in a white 
apron, and Caroly, my mother's secretary, behind her : 

Dear God in heaven, it was a joy 
The dead men could not blast. 

With many others I was able to think so, in that happy year. 


Italy 1945 

Happiness unattached and unrelated, as if one life had dropped into 
another from nowhere, followed the months of my return; an 
atmosphere of safety colours the memory with a comforting familiar 
and unworldly glow. Every morning, surrounded by desolation, but 
with the Euganean hills in sight and the Dolomites behind me, and the 
Venetian plain and its hourly variations stretched at the foot of our hill, 
I woke enraptured and recognized the security of home, the sweetest 
and oldest sensation round which the human vine can wrap its tendrils. 

This strong impression seemed to grow out of something more 
basic than facts ; for the wings of the world as they moved continued 
to cast distorted shadows, and the evidence of my letters shows very- 
little security at all. 

Most of the old loved presences were missing, Charles Ker and 
his sisters Car and Penelope had died, and so had Jock's father 'the 
gentlest man 9 , and my own old people, whose presence continues to 
linger in their place as if the stream of death were but a brook. But 
the younger voices reached me. Marina 1 wrote from Switzerland : 

LAUSANNE 3 January 
Dearest Freya, 

You can't imagine how much joy your postcard gave me. A little of 
Flora 2 came back to me in her usual consoling and sweet way on. this very 
sad day of Nativity. I have never got over the idea of her death, for the 
reality of it, I know, will come upon me only when peace will have re- 
turned to the world. You probably have had all the news about her did 
you read her manuscript on the period of her imprisonment? Everyone 
loved and admired her in that filthy little place. When at last they allowed 

a My mother. 

ITALY 1945 

me to see her, her appearance filled me with admiration: she sailed into 
the dingy little prison room smiling, serene and dignified. That apparition 
has remained for ever in my heart as the embodiment of your wonderful 
country. Against fury and injustice, through darkness and pain, still and 
ever it will rule, an example, a light, an aim for the whole world to admire 
and try to reach. 

Towards November '43 your home was requisitioned for the neo- 
Fascist army. Caroly has watched over it as if it had been her own, and 
so far it has been saved. Now we can only pray God that that dear little 
corner which your mother so loved, may be spared for you to find again 
after all the tragedy is over. All she wanted in the world was your happi- 
ness, and everything she did was done for you; that is why I am nearly 
sure that Casa Freia will be saved, she will save it herself 'for you. 

Now a little news of myself since you ask for it. We are here in exile, 
my sister and myself, since last Christmas ; the children were here before 
us, for we were convinced that things could only end in this way and we 
wished to keep them out of the mess. We were in Italy for the 25th July, 
and then the ghastly period of awaiting disaster came. After the fall we 
had to leave Maser very soon for I had added to my old sin of anti- 
Fascism and my treachery of passionately loving England, the new and 
active work of the resistance and the formation of guerrillas. They came 
to fetch me in a very melodramatic way with so many guns and so many 
Germans, but thank God I was not at Maser but at Pederiva and so I 
escaped their clutches and came here. 

Other news came trickling in : little more than I knew already of 
my two nephews the loss of one in Russia, last seen after the terrible 
Don retreat, and the other's young and brave death in the valleys of 
Piedmont. The only niece left was married. She had rescued her 
husband when captured for the third time among the partisans. 
During the week while the S.S. kept him for information her friends 
were able to kidnap two German officers to buy him off with, 
adding two million lire and her gold bracelets for the exchange. 

In die south, during the last years of the war, the Allies were 
moving about and I got letters from Naples now and then. 

. , . Out immediate problems here all centre on food and on transport to 
distribute what there is. This winter is inevitably going to be cold. A lot 
of people are inevitably going to be hungry, the only guestioix being how 



hungry. At present die answer is hungry but not starving. In some cases 
just not starving. There is also going to be unemployment, particularly 
if the Germans continue their present policy of destroying the power 
system ; for Italian industry, as you know, is geared to electricity. A com- 
bination of cold, hunger and unemployment is liable to be dangerous in 
any country and we are naturally very preoccupied over this and doing 
all we can with what we can get to give out. We shall need some luck, 
so cross your fingers for us.' 1 

In Rome at the end of July 1945 one still heard stray shots every 
night in the woods of Villa Borghese, and dimly visible the German 
corpses rotted tinder Tivoli waterfalls. In the north, where the last 
wave had not yet passed, *it seems probable/ Victor Cunard had 
written, 'that the Germans will hold the Adige for as long as they 
can*. The Asolo approaches were littered with wreckage. 

The Germans had planned, as a matter of fact, to hold, between the 
rivers of Brenta and Piave, a last defence line running through my 
garden ; their gun, which would have called certain destruction upon 
us, was half-way up our hill. But the retreat involved it, and its 
team surrendered, and my maid Emma, running to share in the loot, 
carried away a suitcase filled with note-paper which was to Emma 
of very little use. Yet already, when I returned, the ancient heart 
of Italy was beginning to beat again; and 'this country has made an 
art of being vanquished', an exasperated American said to me before 
the year was out. 

In England, too, the thought of peace was creeping like a tardy 
northern spring. Jock wrote from his R.A.F. station at Old Sarum, 
'I have to suppress almost intolerable desires to get back to No. 50. 
After ii p.m. I allow myself sometimes to plot and plan for books 
and pubKshing, and sometimes I think about Cannon Lodge at 
Hampstead and wonder whether windows without glass and doors 
without bolts make an open house. Aeroplanes have made me wish 
for very simple things the least simple being a week-end at Asolo/ 

Everything is well 2 [I wrote in August], the house shabby but intact, 
and for the last fortnight things in boxes have been pouring from all their 
1 Letter from Harold Caccia, Caserta, December 1945. 
*ToG. deGaury. 


ITALY 1945 

hiding-places. I found eleven unexploded shells among the roses, and the 
shrubs cut away for fear of snipers. The partisans, too, used this garden, 
and their odds and ends were lying about in my room where they hid. 
The rest of the house has been inhabited by six different lots of Fascists, all 
destructive and all horrid, and horrid wives took away our kitchen (elec- 
tric, irreplaceable, but the husband is now in prison for twenty years, 
and we hope to get the stove back from his villa at Monza). Others cut 
the window curtains to make frills for a new baby's cradle a little viper 
no doubt. They took the inside of my books out to light fires. Caroly 
and Emma wrestled over every bit of property, and it is practically all 
there, everything is the same, only older and tireder and a shadow of 
hunger looms with the winter. If we lived on our rations we would die 
(rather Irish) ; we get only half what the Allied Military Government 
think we get. So it is all black market and Caroly has collected two sacks 
of corn and 10 Ibs of butter and I hope to survive. The silk factory 
totters on one foot ; we are going to open its little shop at Christmas. 
The garden is desolate, the gardener says it was no satisfaction to work 
for the Repubblica. Everyone is either friend or enemy, it is shocking if one 
is polite to the wrong people. This tiny place with no rail or air station 
was chosen as the G.H.Q. of the Fascists after the Italian surrender. A 
machine-gun post was just outside my gate beside a sixteenth-century 
fountain, and my tenant, the general, used to walk to and from the cinema 
with four guards holding guns ready on their hips to shoot any citizen 
who looked alarming. The Fascists seem to have been as bad as the 
Germans by that time. Thirty-three trees of the avenue in the next little 
town are marked with wooden crosses and stiff dry garlands in memory 
of young men caught in the mountains and hung there on hooks. Most 
people here were on our side and many gathered in hidden corners to 
listen to the B.B.C., and their miserable burnt-out houses are about, and 
a great feeling of bitterness. Our fat, elderly citizens were told they would 
be hostages, and spent their time in hiding, I can't think there will be 
any German tourist round Venice for a long time. [How wrong I was !] 

Transport and food were our obstacles, and one remembered how 
great civilizations have ended when their roads were cut. 

We have gone back to being a small hill-town trying (successfully) to 
thwart the regulations from the central government which happens to be 
A.M.G. but might just as well be the Holy Roman Empire, as the mutual 
feelings must be much the same. We keep alive by judicious manoeuvring 

ITALY 1945 

exchange cloth for butter and so on. I have landed a Yugoslav Gov- 
ernor in jug for blackmail. I have also got the mid-day winter meal 
for my ten girls ; a partisan crossed the Po for us by night as it is forbidden 
to transport food. I told the A.M.G. I was going to attempt this bit of 
contraband and all they said was * don't bring more than you need and 
don't get caught*. 

We are strangely remote. No news to speak of I haven't had a line 
from anyone. We live in our own world, intersected by the A.M.G. in jeeps 
and lorries, who look in, and now and then whisk one to Padua, Treviso, 
or Venice where I spent a few hours and found a sort of twilight over it, 
like Shelley's 'Soon shall come a darker day'. It made me sad, but 
really it is pleasanter than it was, and a very little prosperity will make the 
difference. The female Italians are the most Allied-minded: as I strolled 
about I saw some young girls watching a gondola with two harmless 
young lieutenants of the 8th Army lying back inside it enjoying the sun: 
'Che aria da padroni; che dominatori!* they said. 

Treviso is a shambles covered with writings to remind the population 
that we did it, and as I was standing watching the wreck of a frescoed 
house, a man passing by said: 'Do you see ?' I think it would be a good 
plan not to allow these slogans, but I suppose we shall not bother. Most 
people are terrified at the Allies leaving next month, and the local A.M.G. 
is giving me the present of a pistol. I don't think anything at all will 
happen. The most depressing thing, far worse than the bombed build- 
ings, is the state of mind of the Italians I see. The middle-aged seem to 
have thrown up the sponge and the young ones to be in a mental chaos, 
with no certainty of any values left. It is pathetic how anxious they are 
for a lead (and how difficult to make them follow when they get it, 

25 August 

Huge hailstones and a tornado came down on us a week after I got 
here and we spent the night baling water out of the bedrooms and saw 
with daylight a landscape like winter, and our last crop and hope after a 
bad harvest lying flat on the ground. Peasants weeping. There is going 
to be very little food. They (the A.M.G.) seem to think that no civilian 
British will be allowed in Italy for months. None but the Viceroy's secre- 
tariat could have managed such a. feat as to land me here now. The 
shadow of the war still flaps its huge mephistophelian wings and people 
fcre far from normal yet. The men far worse than the women (whose 
jnorale is kept up by Allied admiration). But the young have had twenty* 

ITALY 1945 

five years of Fascism and can't stop being Fascist however hard they try 
and whatever name they call it. Up here they want work and things will 
improve as coal trickles in and a few factories get going. Naples was 
one of the most miserable sights I have ever seen: I can't tell you how 
grateful I am to your brother for making it bearable. He came up to 
Rome and we stood side by side on the balcony of Palazzo Venezia where 
the balustrade still has the red velvet for the gesticulating dictatorial hand. 1 

Happiness in spite of all comes breathing through these letters : 

How nice the people are ! Checchi (the gardener) almost daily brings 
wheelbarrows of the things that he took away to hide, with the same 
smile, so many years ago. Emma has just come to say that her salary is 
too much she can do with less. These things must surely balance the 
recording angel's scales ? The wilderness of my garden still has the love- 
liest, gentlest view I know, that winds itself round one's heart. How 
heavenly it is to look on that landscape: how much more beautiful than 
anything else anywhere. It is something we have carried inside us for 
two thousand years, our own sort of civilization, and oh, it is good to 
get back to. 

The army brought civilized life or disrupted it according to its 
behaviour : 

Cart-loads, or rather lorry-loads were carried away from the Iveaghs 
under a big red cross and they will have to buy all their linen, etc., over 
again. The S.S. toasted Hitler and smashed the glasses, and slid in boots 
on the dining-table (beautifully shiny, one can understand the unholy 
temptation !). The house is now inhabited by a bevy of future parsons 
who have come to sit and think for a few weeks, and where could one 
do it better ? I introduced their Padre to our Monsignore who immediately 
said * Truth is One', and I had to help and remark that the four gospels 
are all different. The Padre told me he had never thought of this before, 
which shows how little we know of propaganda even when it is our 
business. He has been making me do peculiar things, like persuading the 
female domestics to be passed by an army doctor, one of those regulations 
that must cause lots of trouble in the more modest parts of the world. 

We have a dreadful A.M.G. Yugoslav-American Governor who be- 
lieves, like the early Arab generals, in possessing the van,qui$hed females 
1 To Charles Rankin, 


ITALY 1945 

on every battlefield. But we have a colonel in Treviso wliom all adore, 
and a brigadier in Padua with the heart of Captain Reece (of The Mantel- 
piece). I went to hear them make speeches in Italian to the Treviso 
authorities and it was a touching, charming affair. Last week the Regent 
of Iraq, the first swallow, turned up suddenly in Venice and my niece and 
I went down to help the isth Corps Liaison entertain him and had four 
days' luxury in the Grand Hotel, curtseying with that ease which now 
comes by habit ! It seemed very mixed to be talking Arabic in Venice, 
which has a poor dilapidated air, but is more beautiful, with old men 
sunning themselves on their own piazza. Every week sees more things on 
the road and very weird ones ! When one goes a distance, as to Milan, 
one scours the country for a departing lorry, and at vast expense gets a 
three-day journey on the roof. 1 

It was miraculous to find things in existence, like those Asiatic 
rivers that reappear suddenly from underground. My house was 
more or less itself again and the struggle for food well in hand. The 
silk factory had six girls and. we were adding two more, and as there 
was still a small store of colours left for dyeing we could carry 
on. I had found enough furniture to last me through the winter, 
which was lucky as even plain linen sheeting cost 6 a yard; and 
I amused myself by re-establishing my home, making scrapbooks of 
the photographs lying around one of 1896 with Herbert Young, 
a young man, painting in the garden. It was a pleasure to do this 
and to think of my niece and her children. "She has come to stay 
a few weeks; she is a darling, so pretty, and has had a tough time. 
Her husband, a gentle, devoted young man came with her, and also 
Mario who looks too frightful now, like a fraudulent character in a 
play. I hope I shall not have to see him often'. [My brother-in-law, 
who died soon after.] 

By October the 4th I wrote to Hugh Euston : 

I can't tell you my surprise when our A.M.G. drove over with a big 
bag and deposited two parcels on my table sugar and coffee and tea, so 
badly needed. I didn't think it possible for them to get through and am 
so grateful. It is also the only sign, since Peter's note nearly two months 
ago, that India still exists. Letters here behave like bullets in a tank and 
whizz round till they hit their targets by chance. 
1 To the Earl of Euston 14.945. 


ITALY 1945 

I am settling down, not with my own affairs, but with all those that 
A.M.G. is ceasing to be interested in people asking for motors, for 
permits, for houses, for the moon, and sure that any Ally can provide 
them. Everything is done (or not done) in a welter of six political parties 
who cook even their macaroni in political party ways. Italy seems to be 
getting orientalized. The black market must be seen to be believed. I 
don't in the least mind buying food : it is much less wasted on me than on 
lots of these ex-Fascists, but I would rather freeze slowly than buy coal 
which is sent for factories and is bought up by private people. There was 
forty per cent leakage at first, and now they have halved and hope to get 
it down to ten per cent. Our own A.M.G. Governor has left, thank God, 
his latest effort to procure his maid a baby; she came to me to ask what 
to do about it. Now we have no government. Our third mayor has 
resigned and we do what we can for ourselves and are relapsing into the 
chaos which produced the Renaissance : I hope we may produce anything 
as good. 

October 1945 
My dear Jeffery [Aniherst], 

In July I flew back over the dear old deserts and it was rather good to 
see the wicked but civilized curving shores of Europe and church steeples 
in the midst of towns. These three months have done wonders : when I 
came we had no posts, no newspapers except a stray one now and then 
from Venice, no means except military of getting about, no trains. One 
lived on what the parish produced and the people who had no geese, 
corn, fruit or butter of their own got along by selling their household 
furniture slowly for vast sums. Now every time I go to Venice or 
Treviso some new thing has burst into life ; the steamers have started, the 
demolished railway stations with their grass-clothed sleepers begin to 
come to life and the train carries you (without windows and very cold) 
to Trieste, Turin or even Rome; one sees scaffolding and workmen on 
the shells of houses and carts carry away the rubble to build with in other 
places. Rome looking on me with some disapproval for being in an 
Italy considered safe and reserved for A.M.G. told me I should be un- 
able to live as a mere civilian. As forty million Italians were doing it, it 
seemed that there must be a chance anyway, and I have been existing 
beautifully, selling a pair of sheets or a sofa when funds got low. I am an 
Industrialist, though not a Capitalist; it is fascinating to be interested in 
silkworms and to learn the steps between the worm and the loom and the 
customer. Out of this lotus-land, this happy haven, die Embassy in Rome 

ITALY 1945 

have pressed on me a six-months contract to make the Italians demo- 
cratic; this hopeless task is undertaken in view of the election, but as 
H.M.G. needs a month to fiad me a car to begin travelling with, I can't 
think we shall influence the votes. When are you coming out here on 
your own travel ? I think it is the sort of country you will like, not only 
beautiful but gentle to live in; everyone breaks the law and plays black 
market, but people are thinking of nicer things than money most of the 
time. 'Mother's nervy' is a good description (not only of England) but 
when you come here you'll forget all that. You won't find anything later 
than 1920 in my library and very few things belonging to a post-war more 
recent than the Guelph and GhibeUine affairs in the country round about. 

By the middle of October Nigel Clive came for a fortnight's leave 
from Athens and we walked to Maser over pale gold slopes, and 
spent two days in Venice, pottering in gondolas through the even- 
ings under the arched bridges, in and out of Middle Ages or Renais- 
sance, watching the sphinx or the marble lion over doorways, 
spending a morning among the Ducal Palace Tintorettos the 
mornings for culture as Adrian Bishop had advised and the after- 
noons for Recovery and Pleasure. The isth Corps Liaison with 
Archie Colquhoun joined us to talk Communism at Florian's, and 
Venice, gayer and more normal, had her shops filled as if by en- 
chantment with expensive pre-war doings. Papers, too, began to 
spoil one's pleasure. 'Mr. Molotov and all those Belsen faces ! Our 
poor diplomats trying to say it doesn't matter ! "What a world ! and 
what have we all been doing and saying all these years to make it 
different ? We have debased our words and pay for it by seeing 
nothing but counterfeit coins. They are forcing me to become a 
Press Attache here in the north. It is only for six months and then 
I hope to get out of it and sit quietly and move softly and love 
mercy and forget the atom bomb and all and perhaps write a book 
or two about non-controversial matters such as the human heart/ 

Dearest Jock, 

At last your letters come two of them, 

Breaking the silence of the sea$ 
Among the farthest Italics. 






ITALY 1945 

I was delighted to get them and hope that now our interrupted stream 
may take its course again. 

Everyone says lovely things about the appearance of Mania's diary. 
It is beautifully done and I am so pleased and grateful. 

There are some good young men of the special services now turned 
observers in Venice. They lunched yesterday, but my pleasure was 
spoiled by a wasp which dived into my vermouth and stung inside my 
mouth. I can't think why Sir John Suckling thought it improved a mouth 
to look as if 'a bee had stung it newly'. I suffered in silence and no one 
noticed, but it hurt ! 

October is here, blue days and gold. One wakes to the plain white 
with frost, the mountains pale turquoise and snow, and there are emerald 
stretches of spring corn. It is a constant loveliness, and one forgets as one 
looks how difficult this Beauty is to live with. A.M.G. allows us residents 
in Italy four thousand lire a month, while an ordinary woollen thing to 
keep one's top warm costs eight thousand. But the country is recovering. 
Every week some new train starts running and coal is trickling in; the 
price of silk and oil shows signs of lowering a little ; butter is still eight 
hundred lire a kilo and firewood six hundred and there is no milk to 
speak of, but everything is obtainable to the rich. As for oriental corrup- 
tion, it is white as snow by comparison. If I become Press attache I shall 
get rations and need worry about nothing at all and, dear Jock, couldn't 
you fly out before or after Christmas for a week ? 

All through the autumn this life of insecurity and charm persisted. 
I read Morris's Earthly Paradise among food hunts and bandits, who 
moved in black masks, and two were shot near by and eventually 
recognized as a local bank manager and a sergeant of police, A band 
of thirty (or possibly less) surrounded a village caf6 and cleared it 
of cash, going from table to table like a philanthropic committee 
collecting. And yet the feeling of stability was there: 'to put things 
away in the hope of finding them when years and years have rolled 
by* It is lovely to come upon objects one remembers as soon as one 
remembers anything, and it makes things like wars and revolutions 
seem less important when such fragile trifles survive.' 1 'It is fas- 
cinating,' I wrote to Peter Coats in December, 'to watch the old 
enchantment at work on a new generation that never was brought 
up on the Continent and the Grand Tour as I was ... I made a 

1 To Billy Henderson 29.1145. 

s [261] 

ITALY 1945 

speech in Italian. We have started a reading-room in Venice, and 
this ordeal, with brigadiers and prefects in rows, was hurled at me 
at the last moment. I felt abject, but suddenly got carried away and 
forgot the official occasion, and talked about civilization tossed from 
Greece to Rome, to Mantua and Sirmio and lona, back and forth 
with Italy and England in her service, and my audience wept/ 

The winter was hard enough and no one had much to keep warm 
with : most of my friends heated one or two rooms and the poor 
heated nothing. I had a fire from tea-time and ran about till then. 
But mails began to come dropping by odd ways- A.M.G. from 
Padua or Treviso, Embassy from Rome, air mail, or the 6th 
Armoured Division from Vicenza. A jeep or a lorry would stop, 
and its inmates come in with letters and a tin or two of army rations, 
ready for lunch in exchange. 'Did you ever read The Cloister and 
the Hearth and realize that all those complications came from an in- 
efficient postal system and the want of facilities for travel ? I now 
have captured a car like a small Roman triumph rolling along 
(frequently punctured).' 

I was back at my old job of Persuasion, and spent my time touring 
in discomfort through fifty-one towns where my reading centres 
were to be started, between the Brenner and Rome. Every new 
centre was like an exploration. One landed in the unknown with 
no previous knowledge as to who would wish to benefit by reading 
the English Press. Sometimes it was easy the people happily unified 
in their opinions under Church or Commujoism, and one meeting- 
ground, a dub or library or school perhaps, could do for all. More 
often there were three or four different groups and some neutral 
centre had to be found among them, with quick assessments 'while 
the decisions were being taken, and a forecast made in private of the 
most useful claimants with the future of the little town in sight, 
Michael Stewart, my chief at the Embassy in Rome, became a 
friend and is so still one of that able and kind galaxy under whom 
it was always my fortune to work during my years of service. He 
had promised that I need neither keep accounts nor write reports 
surely a unique offer in government employment and gave me the 
lesser towns, while John Miller another friend wd others were 
scattered in more important centres like Venice and Milan. The 


ITALY 1945 

winter was mercilessly cold and the gloom of the army transit 
hotels indescribable, but every one of my little cities had some 
statue, fountain, or picture that one would give a year of one's life 
to look at. 

I would like [I wrote] , to be rich enough in my old age to possess one 
small fifteenth-century madonna with a gold background. The Sienese 
have black mantles with gold zigzags, obviously woven in Damascus, and 
I believe there can only have been one of these beautiful weavings and 
that they borrowed it from each other to paint the models in. It is of 
course ridiculous to expect Italy to be at home in the modern world: she 
is deep down medieval right through. If we succeed in building our new 
Atlantis, she will be a sort of Ireland, an irritation but also a refuge, to 
the civilization to come : but if the civilization doesn't come off, it may 
yet be a comfort to find the old and imperfect pattern intact, with its 
charities and black markets, its political monstrosities and family pities, 
its art of living in towns so exciting and dramatic and full of their own 
life that no real interest is taken in the world beyond. 

Each small metropolis now calls up in my mind some picture, 
past or present, of its life. Sometimes it was the beauty of painting 
or stone, more often at that time some human piety, the disinterested, 
almost unquenchable, ant-like optimism that builds in the ruined 
world. The poor were deep in black markets and labour and most 
of the rich did little ; but that heroic educated bourgeoisie which 
Fascism and war had almost obliterated were still eager with their 
poor resources to do what they could. 

Many pictures I remember too many to describe here. The 
charm of Pavia's cobbled streets and squares subdued by the Uni- 
versity and the atmosphere of Learning, in a setting of pale skies and 
shallow waters that irrigate the meadows and keep them green. 
Poplars marked the ditch-sides and smudges of woods the pale 
meanderings of Ticino, and the old roofed bridge was down; and 
the Abb of the Borromeo College sat writing exquisite ItaEan in 
a single warmed room beyond his cold high-ceilinged colonnades. 
He cooked 'imitation' coffee for us, putting a white napkin under 
each cup by the small electric fire, in a room of stiff high chairs, and 
books, and a bkck bed with a red damask cover, a room filled 


ITALY 1945 

with the decency of study and found a young-looking man with 
early-grizzled hair to help us, who had fought all up Italy in the 
8th Army and was working for nothing at a 'people's university' 
in the town. 'I believe Italy will recover more quickly than most 
other places ; I thought this in 1940 and am still convinced of it. 
There is a passionate wish to get back into civilization and forget 
this dark interlude. 5 Before leaving Pavia I discovered the tomb of 
St. Augustine behind an eleventh-century facade, whither his 
monks fleeing before Genseric and the Barbarians, spending enor- 
mous sums to convey his bones from place to place had finally 
sold them to the Lombard emperor. Here the Augustine friars 
were chanting evensong under a marble tomb crowded with 
Renaissance Faiths and Charities in long and modest gowns and 
the broken bridge, and Genseric in Carthage, and the whole story 
seemed to have a single continuity in Pavia. 

In the north, discomfort almost outweighed the pleasures of this 
resurrection. Milan was colder than London in Marina's and 
her sister's luxury flat on an eighth floor, where neither lift, water, 
light, telephone nor stove were working and sister, daughter, dogs 
and friends were all made welcome in the half-demolished town. 
The Brenner, Trent, Bolzano and Brixen were visited in December. 
Larches as yellow as pheasants' tails sloped up the hills and snow lay 
in sun on the tops but there was still a litter of ruin below. The 
5th Army had captured a huge camp of cars, trucks and guns and 
placed them in rows all under white frost by the roadside. Now 
the 5th was no more, but had dissolved without saying anything 
about its car-park, 'so there it decays inviolable, while the British 
Embassy is all off the roads for want of cars ! ' I made a friend here 
of Father Maiden who came from the west of England and ended 
a rich and varied life as a Dominican missionary in a quiet monastery 
of the Dolomites among bis books, with a view of the mountains. 

In the west I pressed up the Valdensian valleys and saw their decent 
poverty and helpfulness and pride, and the museum of their history 
where, with his relics round him, is the portrait of an. English colonel 
who devoted his life and resources to this people, after losing a leg 
on the field of Waterloo. 

I followed the coast from Genoa northward, and from the San 


ITALY 1945 

Remo casino which had just reopened, with a band where a few 
dubious women in furs as little genuine as themselves sat listening, 
I pushed on to see what was left of my cottage at La Mortola. 

6 January 1946 

You never saw such a mess. The French Navy went for this coast, and 
poured stuff indiscriminately over Ventimiglia and other towns, and a 
submarine shot at our walls and blew half the roof off. The R.A.F. blew 
up the left-hand tunnel and sent rails and sleepers through our gardener's 
cottage ; and the Germans laid mines all over the landscape and gardea. 
Neighbours, peasants, S.S. and Fascists all looted. With this, it still has 
its charm; the olive trees I planted have grown into a grove, and the 
cottage is being repaired. I am handing it to my niece as a belated wedding 

As the spring came, I described the centre of Italy to Lord Wavell, 1 

. . . from one litde town to another, by river and sea-shore and very much 
mountain-perched with Etruscan citadels: from Cortona a corner of 
Thrasymenus appears like a plot of forgotten sky and there is a delicate 
outline of hills through which the baby Tiber winds. In these Etruscan 
cities every parish tower seems to be flying a red flag, as the peasants have 
all gone Communist, but I can't help thinking the Russians will be disap- 
pointed by them when it comes to the point. Their leader, Togliatti, 
spoke in Bologna and there were red flags draped over Pope Julius's 
balcony. He with his two bronze fingers blessed it all. Next morning 
they had a sickle and hammer on their high, thin tower to show they had 
won the election it means a change of pocket for strange earnings. 

I had fun discovering the ruins of Canossa in the Apennines ; the map 
showed it near my route, and we deviated into enchanting hills with the 
spring spread over them, geese and pigs and lambs and children, and 
every clump of trees or group of houses like a 'primitive' background, 
but no village big enough for an inn. So I lunched in a peasant's co- 
operative kitchen, on all the things the U.S.A. are being told don't exist 
and the whitest bread you ever saw, and at last found the Ca&ossa ruin on 
a ridge with a view, and violets and tulips growing wild. It is rather a 
gloomy thought that a German emperor was doing penance there nearly 
a thousand years ago and here they are still doing it. 

1 394-46. 

ITALY 1945 

The reading centres flourished and Rome was pleased, and the 
colleagues in the larger centres helped in a valid way. During 
November I had visited Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Treviso, Mestre 
and Conegliano; 'from Milan we hear that visits to Pavia and 
Cremona found our material being used to good advantage'; 
a cultural club in Brescia, a reading centre in Varese, a Um- 
versitd Popolare in Bergamo; Fano and Pesaro and Bologna, 
Ancona, Piacenza and Ravenna are all mentioned during these 
months for one thing or another. The uncertainty, as usual, 
came from London. 'We could get everything working wonder- 
fully here : all we want is to be sure of fifty sets, more or less regu- 
larly, of the chief dailies and weeklies, to have north Italy eating out 
of our hand. This couldn't cost H.M.G. more than 20 to .30 a 
month, and one person to look after it once it is going would be 
sufficient for the whole of Italy you couldn't have any form of 
effort paying a bigger dividend in results : and yet they seem to be 
having all sorts of difficulty in getting these few papers. It does seem 
pathetic that when for once things like The Daily Mail could be use- 
ful, one can't even get them !' 

The starting of my centres was the delicate part of my work and 
required 'hours and hours of negotiating so that no one party comes 
off with all the honours'. 

I have managed, but only just [I wrote] 1 (owing to car accidents) to 
get to Ferrara and to Ravenna, which seems to be doing beautifully more 
or less on its own ; the young Communists were about and it is a very 
good thing to have them interested, especially in any town as red as 
Ravenna. Ferrara however is very jittery and politics top-heavy. I had a 
slight uncertainty before as to the feelings of Signora X. ; this time I spent 
a good while with her looking at the monuments, and as we became 
more intimate she gradually poured out her difficulties, and asked how 
it was possible for an Italian to be spontaneously friendly, when they had 
no means of knowing whom they would have to be friends with in a 
short while. Rather shocked at this point of view, I suggested that it was 
better to make up one's mind about one's friends first, and let events happen 
as they might: sentiments of this sort, I feel, suggest a rather Fascist past 2 
Everyone complains of the slowness of the dailies in arriving, much 

1 To the Embassy in Rome. 


ITALY 1945 

more slowly than those on public sale. I suppose it is hopeless to expect 
the P.O. to send as quickly as the ordinary post? 

With spring 1946 the Italian election (which had made everyone 
nervous) was over, and the agitation for Trieste, with Marshal Tito 
extremely menacing on the frontier, began to calm down as soon as 
it looked as if Italy might be allowed to fight it out if she really 
wished to. I felt that 'if we have to submerge the whole of civiliza- 
tion, I hope it may not be over so passe a thing as a frontier*. 

The papers are so busy with a political crisis every week that we 
never get outside them. There are eight principal parties and the only 
ones that have a chance at the election are those that possess the Ministries 
of Justice and Interior which manipulate the law courts and police: hence 
the fearful scramble to get at the vital portfolios in time ! I dip into this 
sordid world when I go to Venice, where the charming Civil Liaison live 
in an old palazzo with moth'd and dripping arras hung and renovated in 
a wagon-lit style here and there by the royal house of Genoa. In the 
midst of all this, they have all, or nearly all, gone Communist and are 
having an excellent effect counteracting the British passion in Italy for 
drinking and dining only with duchesses or marchesas. 1 

ASOLO 20 February 1946 

I am glad you are in on the Disunited Nations. For better or worse it 
is the cauldron in which the future of our world is boiling, and exciting 
to be inside the orbit of its news. Italy trots along on her butterfly path, 
no doubt towards some stupendous crash, but with a great many amenities 
meanwhile. I suppose one's point of view about the Juggernaut depends 
on whether you are on top of it or in the way of the wheels. Most of the 
affluent people are clinging rather precariously to the top, with masses of 
dollars to rat with at the shortest notice; but then you come on someone 
who has a factory and is doomed in a matter of weeks to close it, or these 
young people like my nephew-in-law for whom, as far as one can see, 
there is no likelihood of any sort of job in the future and as it looks as 
if no one was doing anything about the future at all, I imagine it is going 
to be uncomfortable for a long time. We, of course, are all suddenly 
rich because our salaries are paid in pounds and therefore have gone 
double overnight, and so I am going to buy a parasol in Venice. 

1 To Charles Rankin. 


ITALY 1945 

I have been to the Fenice, not yet heated, but what a gem of a theatre 
what Venice, and opera and the eighteenth century and all the frills and 
froth of life should be: arrived by gondola into plum-coloured velvet 
spangled with stars; turquoise ceiling crowded with shepherdesses in 
pannier gowns, and everything rounded that can be so ; the lights shaded 
like clusters of candles among the boxes ; and Manon a travesty of tragedy, 
on the stage ; and gossip, a travesty of comedy, in every one of the semi- 
dark boxes where events are settled between the acts. It struck me that 
what makes such a difference between our world and this Mediterranean 
is the amount of private life we have: here it is almost equally divided 
and when you go home from opera or cafe or piazza, it is definitely 
from one half of life to another ; but we in England look upon these 
things as accidental parts of our private life which goes on all the time. 1 

One was thankful to be through the winter. There were four 
months yet to the harvest, but there was warmth in the sun, and 
hens laid eggs and a few green things appeared ; and the Italians, who 
had come through many centuries to mistrust their Government, 
had learnt that they must do things for themselves. They were 
being desperately unreasonable over Trieste. *The whole educated 
part of the nation insists on being intelligent without knowing, or 
caring to know, any facts. One sees all the time the fearful effects of 
a civil war, undermining the machinery by which a country runs. 
We are now being deluged by troops billeted in all the villas. I 
imagine because of Tito/ 

The thought of writing came back with other normal things : 

Foreword to Baghdad Sketches* I suppose I could, though I don't feel 
as if there were anything I wanted to say. I feel like a divorced wife once 
my book is published and has left me, and hate to be brought back into 
intimate contact ! I thought Connolly's Unquiet Grave might be a good 
book to add to Count C's parcel: you must send six volumes including 
mine, as rice is really almost worth its weight in literature ! John Betjeman 
is a lovely book too. He has just arrived thank you so much. I can now 
deviate from business to thank you and your bronchitis for a nice letter 
just come I love receiving gossipy letters here by my fire, with the sun- 
1 To G. de Gaury 20.2.46. 

1 To Jock Murray, 11.246, about an enlarged version of the first book which had 
been published in Iraq by The Baghdad Times in 


ITALY 1945 

set outside and no one to disturb ; it makes a compound feeling of remote- 
ness and company. 

The snowdrops are out regiments down these little steep valleys filled 
with nut trees and a stream trickling over pudding-stone waterfalls at the 
bottom. Hepaticas are coming; they call them cows' eyes here, which is 
silly as their beauty is their quite uncow-like blueness. There is a valley 
full of Christmas roses, Checchi and I went and dug a sackful of roots to 
plant in the garden. My two new magnolia trees have furry buds, and 
narcissus and tulip show their spears oh blessed spring : it has been so cold ! 

Dear Freya [Lord Wavell wrote from Delhi], 1 1 ought to have written 
long ago, and have meant to, but 

Indeed, indeed a letter oft before 

I swore to write. And then indeed I swore 

As the chuprassi softly entered in 

And brought me more green boxes, and then more. 

Work really has been strenuous. I have just finished composing a 
speech for the jubilee of an Engineering Institution, and now I am told 
to write one to open a catde show. I wish you were here to do it ... 

Now what news can I give you. We are well but a little weary and 
overworked. The routine seems heavier than ever and the political out- 
look gloomier, and the carpets redder and the boxes greener, and I have 
no rime to read what I want to read or write what I want to write or 
meet those I want to meet. 

We went up to Assam a week or two ago and did a few days in camp 
on the northern frontier, beyond the Brahmaputra; and the tribesmen 
came down from the hills nice, wild, uncivilized, dirty, happy, moun- 
tainy men ; and they paraded in front of me and brought little gifts of eggs 
and hens and sheep and goats, and even a young bison, and bows and 
arrows and primitive swords and hats and nice little wooden bowls, and 
two weird dance masks ; and they did their national dances and showed 
us a curious national sport called Bo Bo, which consists of jumping up 
and down on a bamboo rope between two trees ; and gave an exhibition 
of archery which was a bit dangerous, as they all wanted to shoot at once. 
You would have enjoyed it all thoroughly. Poor dears, I hope that no 
one brings them the blessings of civilization for a very long time. 

In die hope of brightening this dull letter, I enclose a rather charming 

* 23.1245. 


ITALY 1945 

greeting from the Maharajah of Bhutan which may amuse you* You may 
also care to hear of a somewhat cryptic telegram I received from the Aga 
Khan, which read: 'Best thanks gracious permission given for dry fish to 
my followers' ; and of the reply of a charming lady at an official party, 
when I asked whether she had any family: 'No, your Excellency, I've 
tried terribly hard, but I've only got dachshunds.' 

ASOLO 5 April 1946 
My dear Chief, 

I have been wondering what the summer thunder makes a peacock 
feel. Perhaps it gives him the sort of pleasure that I am finding after all 
these Eastern years in the thin cool spring rain of Europe; it is snow on 
the Dolomites behind us, but here it comes down on brown earth and 
makes the daffodil buds grow. They don't come rushing out in the 
voluptuous Indian way, but push until they are fat and nearly open, and 
then wait until they are sure of their weather. They have been doing that 
for over a fortnight now and I go and look at them every day, trying to 
tell them that it is quite safe really. 

I ought to be touring about but have had the flu and doctor's orders 
rather conveniently coincided with my feelings, so I have had two weeks 
of a luxury denied to the poor Viceroy waking every morning with a 
day in my lap that I can do with whatever I like. Part of it goes browsing 
in English history and noticing what a lot of our best kings were 
foreigners: Cnut, William the Conqueror, Henry II who established our 
law, which is I suppose the most English thing about us ; then the Stuarts, 
and William III, and our present ones ; it is rather remarkable, don't you 
think? If we annex the U.S.A. and let them rule and think they have 
annexed us, I feel sure we shall absorb and anglicize them also. The 
methods never seem to vary either. I have a Life of Drake here, in which 
one finds Queen Elizabeth appeasing Spain for years on end, far worse than 
Mr. Chamberlain, ruining plan after plan of her poor fuming captains, 
refusing to let the Armada be nipped in its own waters, waiting till Philip's 
treachery forced her into a defensive war. And the Treasury behaviour 
was the same also, so that Drake had to organize a private syndicate to 
procure a proper navy, like Lady Houston with the 'Spitfire. Do you 
remember telling me how we evacuated Greece with twelve aeroplanes ? 

Our election was over and there was general relief at being able to 
rest from pink, white and yellow placards on the walls. 'The 
monarchists are sad, but I don't know many of them and am not 


ITALY 1945 

sorry for them. Not one of the house of Savoy fought with the 
partisans. How to get a tolerably honest president every five years 
will be the next problem. Do write and tell me about the Victory 
Day. How lucky to have got it in like a picnic in April before the 
next storm!' 1 

Asolo had voted for the monarchy, with only a few flags for the 
republic. They still showed the cross of Savoy, merely because a 
white centre was so difficult to come by. A woman in Venice who 
always had to have things explained, asked: "But is the new flag 
to be all white?" "No/* said her husband. "We have it so occasion- 
ally, but not all the time." 

And now the news came from Palestine that Malcolm Mac- 
Donald's White Paper was finally defeated the disappearance as it 
seemed and still seems to me of our last hope of a settlement there. 
*I believe/ I wrote, 2 'that it seals the fate of the Zionists in the long 
run. Their only real chance was in conciliation, now they will cer- 
tainly not disarm, the Arab League will thrive by being kept united 
with something to fight for, and the Zionists have been given just 
the necessary rope to make them arrogant enough for their own 
destruction. But it does make one ashamed. The White Paper was 
the result of twenty years' experience ; it is annulled by a commission 
chosen because it knew nothing about the question ; what outcome can 
one expect? It's a poor world where we are impartial through 
ignorance, prudent through impotence, and equal through medio- 
crity/ 'How depressed you must be/ I wrote to Jock Jardine. a 
*The example of Pontius Pilate has been fatally followed by almost 
every Government ever since ! ' 

Syria was celebrating after the French rule ended : bevies of young 
beauties driven in cars. *At a given moment, after speeches, they 
opened the bosoms of their gowns to let out the soul of liberated 
Syria disguised as pigeons; the young men shouted "continuez, con- 
tinuez"' while the dazed allegory settled on the helmets of the 
gendarmes/ 4 

* To Jeflfery Aniherst, May 1946. 
2 To G. de Gaury 14.546. 

* 11.6.46. 

* Letter from Stewart Perowne. 

ITALY 1945 

Old friends now began to drop in. I saw Stewart off and the 
Simplon Express seemed full of nostalgia for summer holidays long 
past, when one packed the luggage-racks with haversacks and ice- 
axe, and woke in the early morning at Vallorbe with a taste of snow 
in the air and long Alpine days ahead, and no one had anything but 
a summer holiday to think of. The railway age in Europe had a lot 
to be said for it ! Now it was a sad but gallant little express reduced 
to one wagon its coach pinched from central Europe, and a string 
of day coaches with a coat of paint over bullet-marks and scratch- 
ings, and windows still boarded up here and there. An oriental 
atmosphere of sellers of food and drink had sprung up around it, as 
every journey meant long hours in sidings ; and the wagon-lit 
attendants were pallid as if emerging from cocoons. The opulent, 
respectable, invulnerable look had gone from the people who 
travelled: they were mostly officers' wives, still harassed and shabby, 
or officers' non-wives not very certain of how the pre-war age and 
Great European Railway system worked. It was good to see it 
coming to life again. 

New friends as well as old now came to Venice ; the Duff Coopers, 
and most beloved Bernard Berenson with Nicky from Settignano, 
whose home I now visited twice yearly till his death. His know- 
ledge, so vast in many fields, lapped over with particular happiness 
into the old Hellenistic fringes of Arabia. Many students of other 
times and spaces must also have felt his zest, probing and illuminat- 
ing, and thought of it as peculiar to their own favourite realms. 
Whatever he said had meaning, and was often unexpected : "I would 
have been a Saint," he once told me, pulling himself out of a con- 
templation of the olive-hidden slopes, "a Saint, if I could have loved 
men as much as I love trees/' 

23 April 1946 
Dearest Freya, 

Your note reached me a few busy days before I had to take to my bed. 
A quelque chose malheur est bon* I had the leisure to read your East is West 
and enjoyed it hugely, particularly the earlier part about Imam lahya, a 
King David old and full ofmana* I cannot help sympathizing with your 
enthusiasm over the Arabophones who take so keenly to the lure of 
Western knowledge. But the end is dear. It is Levantism. Ever since I 


ITALY 1945 

can. remember I have been fascinated by Arabia, the genuine Arabs and 
their ways. I have read a great deal about them and about, never a 
book that pleased me more than your Southern Gates of Arabia . . . the 
vignettes, the pictures, the moods you conjure up so that I forgot I was 
reading, I was actually living your pages . . . Do not fail to come for a 
night or more whenever you are near. You will always be welcome. 
And of course later on at Vallombrosa. 

25 April 1946 

Thank you for your dear words. You cannot love me more than I 
love you. And I expect to love you more and more and more. 

These letters were dear to me. In Venice Archie Colquhoun and 
his 1 3th Corps Liaison left with words that pleased me, because they 
expressed my own feelings on Asolo, whose influence * begins to 
work after a day or so, and one suddenly looks out of window and 
sees Life waving at one through the branches of the trees, and 
Happiness glimmering away on the slopes below. Visits to Asolo 
and your reorganized life, getting its values in order again, a ray of 
sanity often, when sanity in one's own life has seemed very far away.' 

I wished to write. Nothing in particular, but to exercise my mind 
with words. ' One should not feel, but cannot help feeling, that it 
might be worth more than all else one does. How many books 
unwritten lie in dark ages when men were too hard pressed to let 
their thoughts have play/ 

Jock wrote from London, 1 'The prospect of autobiography is 
exciting like a morning mist when one knows that a fine summer day 
is coming. I will set about sorting all pre-eastern journey material 
of yours here.' 

By 1946 much hardness had gone out of summer travelling, 
though John Miller and I, crawling in my unreliable car up the 
Spezia headland, still looked for men in masks on the long dope of 
Bracco. About half a division of deserters of one sort or another 
had retreated to the Pisan coast, and there in our ignorance we nearly 
went to lodge and probably come to our end among them; chance 
took us on, to have the car stolen at San Gimignano by a U.SJL 

1 11.10.45, 


ITALY 1945 

deserter, who lured it from the public square, during our absence, 
with its driver inside it: it was the tenth Embassy car to be lost by 

'Transport/ I wrote, 'is getting very low : I begin to wonder if it 
is worth the expense of spirit to go on tour breaking down so often : 
fourteen punctures on the Autostrada I Chauffeurs are becoming like 
the coachmen of my childhood who would never let one do what 
one liked with the horses : I had to get up at four a.m. to come from 
Milan so that the tyres should not get hot/ 

Difficulties of this sort were very slow in disappearing and delays 
in posts, absence of petrol, and the sudden Treasury economics con- 
tinued. My reading centres, all happily self-supporting, were 
threatened with the cutting off of the newspapers that fed them. 
* Having got over the expense of putting in an irrigation system, 
HJM.G. now hesitates over supplying the water/ John Miller and 
I counted up the newspaper expense and made it ^1,200 a year; if 
H.M.G. was too poor, we said, we would collect the money 
privately ourselves. Michael Stewart stood firm in Rome. I refused 
to have my salary cut (a nasty trick they like to play on women) 
but offered to tour while necessary with only travelling expenses 
paid ; and between us all we carried the centres on till the British 
Council took them over. 

31 July 1946 

My office sent me away without telling me that one can draw no 
petrol in Piedmont outside Turin : so we had to slide down the Alps with 
the engine off, and then make terrific efforts at blandishment with the 
nearest petrol pump ; and today the brakes of the car have collapsed in 
pools of oil. How I hate mechanics ! Half the papers, too, have never 
reached my centres that now droop and despond; I feel as if I were the 
mother of orphans, if such a thing were possible. Then just as I had every- 
thing ready a cable reached Turin asking me to delay my journey as the 
sanction for expenses had not arrived. I am not giving auy heed to this, 
as I would far rather pay it myself than let everyone down all the way to 
Tuscany but isn't it enough to make anyoxte tired of doing things for the 
Government ? How right the Italians are in this ! On my way, I devkted 
a little from Torre Pellice in the Valdensian hills, to drop Joha Miller at 
the Briaafon border where he is doing a walking tour. We asked if one 

ITALY 1945 

could get across a pass, and the hotel immediately told us how to slip by 
at night and find one's papers put in order on the other side, all friendly 
organized sympathy for breakers of the law. We went by the regular 
route, however, and lunched at Clavieres, a disconsolate frontier village 
every house pitted like smallpox with bombardment, and a half- 
demolished hotel from which the proprietor produced butter, ham, 
macaroni, cutlets cooked in Marsala, and finally an offering of liqueur 
from himself. This is while the whole of the Italian Press is slanging us 
over Trieste. The little town at the bottom of the pass was decorated 
rather pathetically with Viva Italia on wide white ribbons across the road. 
I am now in an old seigneurial house filled with bric-a-brac, beautiful 
inlaid furniture and strange Victorian freaks, and two women whose 
voices go on like simultaneous waterfalls. When I retired at night and 
listened to a pleasant gurgling stream at the bottom of the garden, I 
thought how wonderful it is that water doesn't talk when it makes a noise I * 

That summer, with health again rather low, I took a month among 
the Dolomites of Val Badia to rest from Information, in a valley 
'which, old newspapers reach now and then, and in the four days I 
have been here three cars have passed our door, winding down 
from the Sella Pass. The people in Rome and Paris are discussing 
whether this is to be Austrian or Italian, but here the cows are being 
milked as usual, and one inn is called Gasthof and the other Albergo'. 2 

By that time, Nuremberg was over. 'What can go on in those 
minds/ I wrote, 'during these last days ? Do you remember Mont- 
rose, sleeping his peaceful sleep before bis execution? Raleigh's 
letter to his wife ? How little people think about how they are to 
meet that time, which, is so sure to come ! ' 

The G.H.Q. from Naples and the troops from Trieste were meet- 
ing in one chaos between Venice and Padua and our landscape was 
again filling with soldiers. *How many brigadiers' love of Renais- 
sance colonnades will survive the unheated Palladian villas' I won- 
dered. Yet Italy had decided as she always knows in her heart 
that war with Tito, or anyone else, was too expensive. The tumult 
and the shouting was dying, and in her old untidy way, her surface 
confusion and tinderlying order, her medley of vulgarity and beauty, 
she, too, was stepping into the new and not alluring world. 

1 To G. de Gaury. * To Lord Wavell, 22.646. 


After the six years' tempest, the destinies of ordinary mortals settled 
into such uneasy patterns as still confront us, and it has not been pos- 
sible to find any definite boundary of Peace for the ending of this 
book. But by Christmas 1946 Western Europe was operating in a 
rhythm of comparative freedom, trains were threading the conti- 
nent, and a visit that winter to Paris and London suggests that travel 
for pleasure was reborn. 

A year or more had gone by since the Brothers of Freedom were 
closed in Iraq. 'We have asked and asked for replacements of staff, 
without success/ wrote Peggy from Baghdad and kept the 
women's side pluckily going for some time longer. In Egypt the 
end came with more violence. 

Ronnie Fay, left by then in sole charge, wrote in May 1947 that 
*a bomb exploded outside our Alexandria office . . . Papers launched 
the most violent attacks and two of them started publishing "rolls 
of honour" with the names of a few committee holders who had 
been "patriotic" enough to leave us. Actually a few were those of 
people who had been terrorized into doing so but most of them were 
faked or forged. After six weeks we have only lost about two hun- 
dred and fifty committees out of five thousand, and opened one 
hundred and forty new ones; central meetings have been well 
attended, and a few people have resigned their jobs rather than leave 
the organization. The P.O. realize that the Brothers have put up a 
most incredibly good show while the Anglo-Egyptian Union, 
crumbled to pieces in a moment, as no one had the courage to stand 
up to a few extremists. Everyone is trying to push the others faster 
and fester down a road along which none of them want to travel* 
but in view of the state of feeling, unemployment and Communist 
intrigues, the result may well be tragedy/ 



Aware of the dangers and intrigues that surrounded it, the 
Brotherhood soon recovered the ground it had lost, and indeed 
grew bigger and stronger than ever, until it finally had more than 
six thousand committees scattered through every town and in almost 
every village of the cultivated areas of Egypt. Later, Ronnie Fay 
described the end: 

In the autumn of 1951 the Wafd repudiated the Anglo-Egyptian 
treaty, and in January 1952 fighting broke out in Ismailia. As a result, on 
January 14, 1952 the Council of Ministers issued a decree to the police that 
the Ikhwan el-Hurriya (Brotherhood of Freedom) was to be suppressed, 
and that they were to take the necessary steps. The Embassy advised me 
to take refuge in the Canal Zone, but I objected as I thought it might lead 
to persecution of our members. It was then decided that, to prove that 
we were complying with the decree, I should leave the country and on 
the 1 8th I was escorted by Egyptian police to Alexandria and left Egypt. 
Eddie Gathorne-Hardy was given diplomatic status and charged with 
winding up the organization and paying compensation to all the staff. 
As a result, as far as I know, none of our members were penalized for 
having belonged to the organization whose closing was solely due to a 
political situation which could not. have been foreseen when the work 
was started. 1 

By the end of 1952 the totalitarians were back in power and our 
efforts, nearly everywhere successful in the Middle East in war, had 
already crumbled with the peace. 

I have long pondered over the cause of our failure, and I think that, 
as far as the Arab world is concerned and perhaps on a wider orbit 
also two reasons were implicit from the start. The first was a lack 
of clearness and faith in our own values a fatal flaw, for it meant 
that the world as we saw it, and offered it to our friends, was an 
uncertain world in which our integrity felt ill at ease. We were 
trying to offer a civilization which we Aid not believe in : the Middle 
East was very quick to feel this weakness. 

We did this I think from a genuine desire for unification with the 
U.S.A. and a rather woolly rejection of bad and good together in 
our past. I argued this last point at the time with a friend and the 

1 Letter from Ronnie Fay. 

T [277] 


two sides of tlie question, the honesty of the English doubts and 
as I still think their muddle, are best shown by this correspondence. 

ASOLO 10 November 1945 
Dear Lionel (Fielden), 1 

Glad to hear that East is West is liked. I wonder if it will do any good ? 
Do you really think it gave too kind a picture of the British Raj ? I was 
thinking about them the other day apropos of General Scobie, who is a 
thoroughly nice average Englishman, and the Greeks adore him, they 
think him a sort of god. I puzzled over this till I began to think what the 
average qualities were that made us take him so for granted: honesty, 
modesty, truthfulness, courage, integrity, none of which is particularly 
average in any other Raj we know, and perhaps the Mediterranean, which 
has lots of other qualities but not so much those in combination, is more 
correct in assessing them than we are in. taking them for granted. Any- 
way I agree with what you say about the vital necessity of being super- 
national now : but I think one can do that while caring in a reasonable way 
for one's own plot of earth. I notice that in the East your intellectual 
anti-Englander is mistrusted just like your atheist. Why should the love 
of God make one care less for men, or of our own earth make us care 
less for that of others ? The Jingo people are generally those who care the 
least about their own country and the people like Henry Lawrence, 
Nicholson, Gordon, and a dozen I could name living now, passionately 
English, are the ones who are loved abroad. I suppose that one can only 
learn to love by loving and to begin by hating in one's own home is a 
downhill way? Anyhow we are now happily situated as a secondary 
power, and can watch the great American and Russian empires improving 
on our ways. I think it will be good for us, and good, too, to be poor, 

LONDON 24 November 
Dear Freya, 

I was delighted to get your letter which gave me (a) great pleasure, 
(b) a feeling of guilt and (c) argumentative prickles of tiie first order. I 
think that the British Raj as rajahs go is the best, undoubtedly, but I don't 
like the Raj principle any more than I like intolerant fathers, head- 
masters or statesmen. You are a kind of arch-fiend of propaganda because 
you do (or appear to) really act on perfectly equal aad equable terms with 
the desert and its people and if any Raj could be as amusing and intelligent 
1 Then Director of Public Relations, AlHed Control Commission in Italy, 



and friendly as you well, it should take charge of the world. But I kick 
violently when you say that Englishmen are 'loved* abroad, and I don't 
believe it. General Scobie for example is obviously adored by one party 
in Greece but surely execrated by another. And can you generalize so 
widely 2 'The Greeks adore him* but how many Greeks, really, has he 
met 5 Watching Indians I came to the conclusion that they very very 
seldom 'adored' Englishmen. They have, of course, a great deal of 
natural warmth and expansiveness and a real sense of gratitude and more 
rarely loyalty. But take away from an Englishman his money and 
position and power and how many really 'adore' ? I can't help feeling 
that your qualities (with which you endow him) are not only rare but 
also a little what shall I say tiresome. Tkesome if only because they 
are proclaimed and there is an arrogance about the British . . . and it seems 
to me that on that altar of truth and honesty (so frequently belied by our 
business men and commercial travellers) is apt to be sacrificed grace of 
living, gaiety, the arts, humour, tolerance, and even intuition, which I 
rank high, in spite of Hitler ! Of course I do agree that in certain circum- 
stances the Englishman is loved abroad for the qualities you give him, 
because they are complementary to the qualities of the nation concerned 
and thus rather endearing (but NOT to be copied!). I think the Anglo- 
Italian tie is strong because the Englishman thinks 'what picturesque 
scoundrels these people are' and the Italian says 'questo Phlegm e tneravig- 
lioso* but an Italy ruled by England, or the reverse, would be hideous. 
I am quite certain that all your books do good and I think you've done 
one of the finest bits of work of our generation you make everyone, 
including yourself, lovable ! It can't but do good. But I personally feel 
your spectacles are very rose. 

ASOLO 4 March 1946 
Dear Lionel, 

I really think that we are only looking at the same landscape from 
different sides. Admitting that the English virtues only fill half the bill, 
that our want of gaiety, of a sense of beauty, of sensitiveness, is depressing 
(don't I admit it !) it seems to me that you wrote as one who, having been 
too much among the British virtues, longs for sunlight and I as one 
who, having lived mostly among the other, appreciates solidity. It is the 
question of the gkss half empty or half full. But anyway it seems to me 
a wrong system to ininimize one set of virtues because they don't happen 
to include another set and this is what the broad-minded Englishman is 
always doing. If you flung his own qualities overboard, you would still 



not furnish the Englishman with Latin graces. The Latin virtues may be 
superior, I should find that a very difficult point to decide ; but in my 
book I was talking about the other set of qualities and how should I 
improve a description of burgundy by complaining that it isn't like 
champagne? You are tired of hearing about the English virtues; any 
Italian is tired of references to his artistic qualities: but that is merely an 
argument for mixing and not for throwing our own make-up overboard. 
I agree that the old-fashioned Jingo who was out to impose his code was 
a menace; but that is a relic of the past, and I do think that we are ahead 
of most of the world now in having left the 'possessive' stage, in love, in 
education, in religion, in administration, behind us. It is only in so far 
as we wish to serve more than we want to rule that I think we are a ruling 
race if you see what I mean. Most of the good people I met in the East 
not the Blimps do really want to serve ; and if we once realize this as 
the objective, I think we shall go on ruling by mere force of events. If 
we don't understand this, then the first nation that does realize it will rule, 
hut so far no one seems to be better at it than we are ? 

As far as the Arab world was involved, the rejection of our 
tradition, which was apt to be wholesale when it should have been 
partial only, was made utterly disastrous by our handling of Israel. 
It was for this reason and not for any want of admiration for the 
Jewish achievement that nearly every serious observer in the Middle 
East looked upon Zionism as our greatest danger. When once the 
war and its chivalry were over, the trust which individual English- 
men had engendered could not survive, and their personal influence 
which should have tided us across our transitions was unable to 
stand against what the whole Arab world felt to be an injustice. 
Here again I shall quote a letter of that time. 

ASOLO p November 1945 
My dear Harold (Nicolson), 

I am not going to quarrel with your feelings for the Effendi: he is 
raw material, and you are civilized in the rarer and more Latin way, and 
the Latin seems generally to dislike the Middle Easterner: I think it is 
partly our British obtuseness, our want of sensibility, which helps us in 
the modern Arab world. At the same time the fine Arab tradition is a 
fine one, and the genuine product is a complete and satisfactory human 
being, and the Effendi for all his chaotic stage at present does derive from 



this background, and will with any luck find a proper balance in some 
future day. 'Even a caterpillar is beautiful in the eyes of its mother' not 
only, for he may become a butterfly: but I am not remonstrating with 
you for not liking him in his present form. 

What I do protest against is the making up of one's mind on the 
Palestine policy dependent on one's sentiment for or against Arab or Jew. 
Nor would I make it dependent on policy merely or 'appeasement'. The 
fundamental problem is a simple one: we took on a mandate which 
bound us to care for the welfare of an Arab people and we have no right 
to use it so as to abrogate their chance of sovereignty in their own land. 
I cannot see any escape from this position and I think the confusion in the 
mind of many people, and perhaps in yours, comes from the fact that the 
individuality of Palestine is not realized; it is thought of as a bit of homo- 
geneous Arabian lump, so that people do not look on the taking of it 
from the Arabs as they would think of New Zealand being taken from 
the New Zealanders. The two are really quite similar: they both belong 
to a larger unit, an Arab or a British world, with which they have ties 
of race, language, etc., but they both have a separate identity and to deny 
it will offend the very deepest feelings of mankind. For their own Man- 
datory to do this by coercion is not only going to cause trouble, it would 
be one of those crimes which nearly always have brought a terrible 
punishment and centuries of revenge. 

I don't believe any Arab thinks our decision in their regard will be 
influenced by fear. They still believe that we are for justice and are con- 
vinced of the justice of this position of theirs ; and if we admitted their 
right to control the immigration into their country, we could probably 
persuade them to use it in a tolerant way. (I did in fact suggest to Nuri 
last year that it would be a good plan for the Palestine Arabs spontaneously 
to offer to take in a number say one hundred thousand Jews: this 
would have put the Zionists in the dilemma of either refusing, or of 
accepting the principle that the Arabs hold the door^-but of course 
nothing came of my great idea !) 

As a nation we are often inclined not to follow a course we think right 
because we are afraid we might be following it for other reasons profit 
and righteousness have so often gone hand in hand that we are shy of the 
combination. I believe they do eventually go hand in hand but of course 
it is important to have the proper one leading. 

The whole problem seems to be on a wider scale than one of ex- 
pediency. In a world of Asiatic peoples rapidly becoming self-conscious, 
I believe Britain has found in her system of * guidance by advice' the only 



way of retaining influence. If she goes back on this system she is putting 
herself not only on a losing side but on a side she herself does not believe in. 

These two causes, our own want of conviction and our own in- 
justice, were at the root, I think, of our failure. They were not 
operative during the war, when our beliefs were simpler and firm, 
and a way out of the Palestine mess still existed; but in the fifteen 
short following years, from a pinnacle of honour and respect which 
had never in our history in. the Middle East been surpassed, we took 
one of those downward ways that are said to be paved with good 

In my own story during those years a pattern now seems visible. 
Prom the first real sight of the problem and its dangers in the Yemen 
in 1940, through a gradual search and elaboration in regions far 
separate Egypt, Iraq, America, India and Italy I studied what was 
involved in the art of Persuasion. The two flaws that have lost us 
the Middle East were infringements of its basic rules one's own 
integrity in the first place in this case a scale of values from which 
we swerved and in the second place the neglect of disinterested ser- 
vice towards those with whom we speak which, in the eyes of the 
Arabs, our policy with Israel destroyed. We therefore had no chance 
as soon as die war was over. 

What are we to do, we may ask, when those two, or even one of 
these basic foundations are missing, and for the good of our country 
we are asked to spread a gospel either unhelpful to the people for 
whom it is destined or unconvincing to ourselves ? We should in 
this case, I think, refuse ; such a baseless building is anyway, in the 
long run, sure to fall. 

Yet I am not a pessimist to think of this defeat as final Re- 
established as a trading nation we have, I hope, reverted to strength. 
No longer clogged with too much power, we might perhaps de- 
velop the best of civilizations yet known and, reverting to a perennial 
policy which is, in effect, a neutrality that favours the weaker, we 
could still lead the smaller and peace-loving mtions of the world. 
Since 1943 I have thought that this should be our role, and I watch it 
slowly emerging. 

The evils of over-centralization too must soon be realized and 



most probably be cured, and men of ability lured back into services 
now more and more deserted. (The speed of communication always 
offered as an argument for can equally be used against centralization, 
since it allows the periphery to act with knowledge.) 

These are external matters though they are vital enough; whereas 
the use of words, with which I am chiefly concerned and with which 
this book chiefly deals, is at the heart of thought and therefore of 
action. Attention to it is not to be deferred for times of crisis, since 
its neglect hatches the crisis in itself. In an age prosperous as this 
promises to be if violence can be avoided, the importance of words, 
their management and their reality, becomes supreme. If they are 
mishandled or abused, even for the simplest purposes, they produce 
corruption and decay, for it must never be forgotten that they are 
the vesture of something greater than themselves doorkeepers 
to a sanctuary as the evangelist saw them, and as indeed they are. 

We have failed in part. And yet we have no wish to recapture 
the material trappings of a past that has moved on : but during that 
past, in our need, the spirit of our words did not fail; we held its 
sharpness by the handle; and nothing but the integrity of what we 
say and the belief in our saying can give us that handle again in 
whatever its future form may be. 

Table of Main Chronological Events 1938-1945 

1938 April 9 German invasion of Den- 

March. Hitler occupies Austria mark and Norway 

Sept. Chamberlain goes to Munich Ma ? I0 Germ f ? mv ^ s HoUand > 
for conversations with Hitler Belgium and Luxembourg 

May 10 Resignation of Mr Cham- 

on Czechoslovakia. Agreement 
signed 2pth 

Oct. i German troops occupy 

March 15 



Czech frontier 

April i Spanish War ends 

April 4 King Ghazi of Iraq killed in 
motor accident; succeeded by 
three-year-old Feisal 

April 7 Italy occupies Albania 

August 23 Soviet-German Non- 
aggression Pact signed at Mos- 

Sept. i Poland invaded 

Sept. 3 Britain and France declare 
war on Germany 

Sept. ii Iraq breaks off relations 
with Germany 

Sept. 27 Warsaw surrenders 

Nov. 30 Finland invaded 


March 12 Russo-Finnish peace Pact 
signed in Moscow 

berlain. Coalition formed with 
Mr Churchill as Prime Minister 
May 15 Dutch Army capitulates 
May 27/28 Belgian Army capitu- 

May 28 Dunkirk evacuation 
June 10 Italy declares war on Bri- 
tain and France 
June 17 Petain announces that 

France has asked for armistice 
July 3 British attack French ships 

at Oran 

July 10 Battle of Britain begins 
Sept. 7 Start of London blitz 
Sept. 13 Italians occupy Sollum 
Oct. 28 Italians cross Greek frontier 
Dec. 9 First Western Desert offen- 
sive opens 


Jan. 22 Australians enter Tobruk 
Feb. 6 British enter Benghazi 
March 1 1 Lease-Lend Bill approved 

by House of Representatives 
March 30 Enemy counter-offensive 

in North Africa 



April 22 Evacuation from Greece 

May 2 Iraqi forces attack Hab- 

May 30 Iraqi revolt collapses 

June i British forces withdraw 
from Crete 

June 8 Imperial and Free French 
forces enter Syria 

June 22 Germany invades U.S.S.R. 

July 12 Anglo-Soviet Agreement 
signed in Moscow 

July 12 Syrian armistice terms ini- 
tialled at Acre 

August 14 The Atlantic Charter 

August 25 British and Russian 
troops enter Iran 

Sept. 1 6 Shah of Iran abdicates 

Oct. 9 New Iraqi Cabinet under 
General Nuri as-Said 

Dec. 7 Japan attacks Pearl Harbour 

Dec. 7 Japanese High Command 
declares war on Britain and the 

Dec. ii Italy and Germany declare 
war on U.S.A. 

Dec. 22 First Washington Con- 


Jan. 21 Second German counter- 
offensive in North Africa 
Feb. 15 Singapore falls 
May 4 Battle of the Coral Sea 
May 26 Third German counter- 
offensive in Western Desert 
June 4 Battle of Midway Island 
June 21 Tobruk falls 
July i Germans reach El Alamein 
Aug, 12 First Moscow Conference 

Oct. 23/24 Battle of Alamein opens 
Nov. 7/8 Allied landing in North 


Nov. 22 Stalingrad counter-offen- 


Jan. 1 8 Siege of Leningrad raised 
Jan. 23 Eighth Army enters Tripoli 
Feb. 2 Germans capitulate at 

May 12 Organized resistance in 

Tunisia ends 

July 9/10 Allied landing in Sicily 
July 25 Mussolini resigns 
August 17 First Quebec Conference 
Sept. 3 Allied landing in Italy 
Sept. 8 Italy surrenders 
Sept. 9 Landing at Salerno 
Sept. 10 German troops occupy 


Oct. 1 8 Second Moscow Confer- 

Nov. 22 First Conference at Cairo 
Nov. 28 Teheran Conference 
Dec. 4 Second Cairo Conference 


Jan. 22 Anzio Landings 

June 5/6 D Day 

June 13 First flying-bomb lands in 

August 15 Allied Forces land on 
south coast of France 

August 23 Paris liberated 

August 23 Rumania accepts Rus- 
sian armistice terms 

Sept 10 Second Quebec Con- 



Oct. 9 Third Moscow Conference 
Dec. 1 6 German Ardennes offensive 


Jan. ii Warsaw entered by Rus- 

Feb. 4 Yalta Conference 

March 7 U.S. first Army cross the 

April I Okinawa invaded 

April 12 Death of President Roose- 

April 13 Vienna liberated 

April 28 Death of Mussolini 

April 30 Death of Hitler 

May 2 Berlin surrenders to Russian 

May 2 German armies in Italy 

May 7 Unconditional surrender of 

May 8 VE Day 

July 17 Potsdam Conference 

August 6 Atomic bomb on Hiro- 

August 8 Russia declares war on 

August 9 Atomic bomb dropped 
on Nagasaki 

August 15 VJDay 


Abd el Qadir Gailani, 78, 98 
Abdullah, Emir of Transjordan, 

later King, 57 
Abdullah, Emir, Regent of Iraq, 

76-8, 107-10, 113-14, 120 
Abu'l Huda, Lulie, 63, 69, 158 
Abu Simbel, 55 
Abyssinia, 7, 20-21 
Aden, 2, 10-21, 23-5, 27, 29, 31, 

34, 36-7, 39, 4i~50, 52, 54, 

63, 65-6, 68, 73, 97, n8, 195, 

212, 216 

Crater, 14, 46 

Little Aden, n 
Aleppo, 7-8, 123 
Alexander, Field-Marshal Earl, 


Alexandretta, 8 
Alexandria, 60-61, 69-70, 134, 


Algiers, 161 
Altounian, Dr. and Mrs. Ernest, 


Alwiyah, 155, 121 
Aly Khan (d. 1960), 60, 117, I3<5 

Joan Aly Khan, 136 
America, 3, 6r, 138, 141, *49> *5*, 

165-221, 192, 196, 199, 201, 

209-21, 278, 282 
Amherst, Earl (see also under 

author's letters), 59 
Anatolia, 119 

Ankara, 100 

Anti-Semitism, 165 

Antonius, George (d. 1941), author 
of The Arab Awakening, 77, 79- 
80, 129 

Aosta, Duke of, 52 

AqqaKuf, no 

Arabia and Arabs, 3, 11-14, 16, 18, 
21, 23, 39, 41, 43, 49, 57-8, 
62, 68-9, H3, 128, 130, 141, 
146, 159-^0, 165-6, 176-7, 
181-6, 195-6, 198-9, 201-3, 
207-20, 226, 246-7, 251, 271- 
3, 277, 280-2 

Saudi Arabia, 12-14, *57, 183, 
1 86, 221 

Arabian Isle, The (in England, 
East is West), 210 

Asolo, 45-46, 172, 220, 227, 244, 
254, 267, 270-1, 273, 278-80 

Astor, Viscount (William), 117 
Athens, 117, 156, 228, 260 
Atlantic Charter, 179 
Auchinleck, Field-Marshal Sir 

Claude, 58-9, 243 
Austen, General Godwin, 50 
Austin, Senator, 183 
Azerbaijan, 119 

B.B.C. (broadcasts), 25, 42-3, 92, 
95, 98-9, ioi> 105, 108, no, 
117, 255 


Bacon, Virginia, 183, 215 
Baghdad, 61, 73-135, 138, 141-** 

148-9, 153, 156, 160-1, 210, 

226, 276 

Baghdad Sketches, 268 
Bailey, William, 91, 112, 115 
Basra, 76-8, 89, 96, 101, 105, 108, 

no, 115-16, 124, 144, 146, 

152, 203 

Beach, John and Lucy, 72, 133, 152 
Beirut, 135, H5 

Bentinck, Count Arthur, 13, 16 
Berenson, Bernard, 3, 272 
Berlin, Sir Isaiah, 181-2, 221, 223 
Berry, Mary, 158 

Besse, Sir Anton and Lady, 14, 54 
Birdwood, Lord (2nd Baron), 141- 


Author ofNuri as-Said, 141-2 
Bishop, Adrian (d. 1942), 3, 93, 

95, 98-9, 101-2, 105, 1 1 8, 130, 

138, 160, 172, 260 
Bodley, Colonel, 218 
Borland, Miss, 81 
Boston, 220 
Bracken, Viscount (Brendan) (d. 

1958), 217 
Brandeis, Dr., 184 
Brandt, Dr., 210 
British Council, 118, 137-8, 213, 

British Institute, ii8> 130, 149-50, 


Brockington, Leonard, 208 
Brotherhood of Freedom, 67-71, 

75, 84, 117-21, 125, 128-35, 

139-41, 145-6, 149-51, 158- 

60, 2io-ix, 276-7 
Bullard, Sir Reader, 85, 149 
Burma, 129 

Burrows, Sir Bernard and Lady, 

Caccia, Sir Harold, 161, 253-4 
letter to author, 253-4 

Cairo, 20, 22, 50, 52-4, 56-73, 79, 
84, 89, 109, 116-18, 127, 129, 
133-4, 139-40, 145, 151, 158- 
9, 161, 179, 194, 226, 230, 250 

Calgary, 205 

California, 194-202 

Canada, 3, 165, 202-9 

Cantor, Eddie, 219 

Carmel, 121-2 

Casey, Lord and Lady, 130, 


Catroux, General Georges, 117 
Cattaro Harbour, 86 
Cawthorn, Major-General Sir 

Walter, ii<5 
Cecil Lord David, viii 
Champion, the Rev. Sir Reginald, 

34> 37-9 
Channon, Sir Henry (d. 1959), 171, 

218, 222-3 

Chapman,, John, 157 
Chicago, 180, 187-92, 195-6, 199, 

210, 230 

Oriental Institute in, 189, 210 
Cholmondeley, Marchioness of, viii 
Churchill, Randolph, 179 
Churchill, Sir Winston, 86, 119, 
123, 176, 181, 184, 1 86, 191, 

195, 200, 205, 212, 21 8, 222 

Clayton, Brigadier, Sir Iltyd (d. 

1955), 3, 68, 158-60, 171 
Ckland, Dr., 185 
Clive, Nigd, 125-6, 131, 133-4, 

160, 174, 182, 225, 260 



Coats, Peter, 172-3, 232, 258, 261 East is West (in America, The 

Cockerell, Sir Sydney, 138 
Colonial Office, 19, 21, 34, 184, 

191, 193-4, 203, 211, 227 
Colquhoun, Archie, 273 
Connecticut, 221 

Arabian Isle), 2, 64, 76, 166, 

210, 226, 272, 278 
Eden, Anthony, later the Earl of 

Avon, 58, 107, 183, 228 
Edmonds, C. J., 93, 97 

Cornwallis, Sir Kinahan and Lady, Egypt, 3, 12, 21, 28, 41, 52, 56, 63, 

3, 19, 62, 75-78, 80-81, 83, 90, 

93, 99, 102-3, 105, 107-8, 

110-15, n8, 124, 141, 160, 

Council of Churches, 201, 217, 


Creston, B.C. (ranch), 204-5 
Crete, 88, 106, 108, no, 112, 117, 

136, 198 

Crosthwaite, Sir Moore, 244 
Cunard, Lady (Emerald) (d. 

1948), 223 
Cunard, Victor (d. 1960), 228, 

Cyprus, 52, 134, *3<5-8, 233 

70, 72-3, 103, H9, 127-8, 
132, I39-40, 143, I50-I, 192, 
195, 276-7, 282 
Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, 145, 

Eisenhower, General, later President 

of the U.S.A., 161 
Elmhurst, Air Marshal Sir Thomas, 

England, 2, 7, 10-11, 13, 16, 29, 42, 

54, 77, 80, 132, 144, 161, 166, 

172, 196, 198, 202, 207, 210, 

2I8-I9, 221-9, 253, 260, 262, 

264, 268 
Eritrea, 21 

Ettinghausen, Dr., 192 

Davies, Reginald, 53, 63, 69, 137, Euphrates, 123, 150-2 

227 Euston, Earl of, 257-9 

De Gaulle, General, later President Evans, Edith, 243 

of French Republic, 58, 246 

Delhi, 105, 149, 196, 225, 230-1, Fakhri, Nashashibi, 124 

233, 235, 238, 240, 243, 269 Fallujah, 89-90, 98, 106-7, 109, 
Dhala, 15 
Djibouti, 14, 49 

Donivile, Group-Captain Patrick, Farouk crisis, 129 

89, 92, 98, 105, 109, 113, 142 Fascists, 2, 7, 19-40, 45, 52-4, &: 
Drower, Lady (Stefana), 80, 125 254,256-7,263,265 

Drower, Peggie (Mrs. Hackforth- Fay, Ronald, 69-71, 1*7, 151, *5* 

Jones), 125, 138, 276 276-7 

Duff Cooper, Alfred (d. 1954), and Feisal, King of Iraq, 57, m, "5 

Lady Diana, later Viscount Feversham, Earl of, 137-8 

and Viscountess Norwich^ 272 Fielden, Lionel, 278-80 

Dunn, James, 21 1 Fleming, Peter, 243 


Famagusta, 136-8 


Foreign Office, 7, 19, 210-11, 267, 

Fox, Rabbi, 190-1 

Gandhi, Mahatma (d. 1948), 192, 
225, 236, 248-9 

Gathorne-Hardy, Hon. Ralph 
Edward, 158, 277 

de Gaury, Lieut-Col. Gerald (see 
also under author's letters), 

Germany and Germans, 2, 7, 10, 16, 
18-20, 22, 28-30, 32, 44, 60- 
2, 76, 79, 87-8, 97, 99, 102, 
104, 106-7, 119, X33, 192, 198, 
225, 253-4, 265 

Glubb, Lieut.-General Sir John, 
114, 227 

Golconda, 237 

Grafftey-Smith, Sir Laurence, 63 

Graham, Barbara, 125 

Graziani, Marshal, 52 

Greece, 7, *o, 58, 160, 225, 262 

Grenfell, Joyce, 243 

Grobba, Dr. (German Ambassa- 
dor), 76, loi-a, 104, 113 

Gunther, John, 218 

Habbaniya, 76-7, 88-91, 93, 95~ 

6, 101, 107-8, 112, 116, 128, 

Hadhramaut, 19, 21, 24, 49, *57, 

194, 212 
Halabja, 154-5 

Halford, Aubrey, and Mrs., 251 
Halifax, 166, 168 
Halifax, ist Earl of (i 1959), and 

Countess of, 185, 196, 205, 


Hama, 7 

Hamadan, 85 

Hamilton, John A. de Courcy, 


Harding, Charles, 235 

Harrison, Austen, 243 

Hawtrey, Air Vice-Marshal J. G. 
(d. 1954), 120, 128, 146-9 

Hitler, Adolf, 43, 74, 76, 83, 129, 
223-4, 257, 279 

Hitti, Professor, 217 

Hodeidah, 20-1, 33, 39~40 

Holman, Sir Adrian, 105, 114, 150 

Holt, Sk Vyvyan (d. 1960), 83, 
89-90, 93-4, 96-101, 103-4, 
106-7, 109, 112, 115-16, 124, 

Hong Kong, 177 

Horder, Lord, viii 

Hore-Ruthven, The Hon. Mrs. 
(Pamela) (see also under 
author's letters), 57, 63, 69-70, 
117, 121, 124, 126, 139, 161- 

2, 173-4 

death of husband, 139, 161-2 
Hoskins, Colonel, 182-3, 187, 221 
Hull, Cordell, 211 
Hyderabad, 234, 237 

IbnSaud, King (d. 1953), 183, 214, 


Riyadh, 246 
India, 56, 58, 124, 146, 175-7, 19*> 

195* 197. *99* 229-5*, 2 58 

Infomxation, Ministry of io> 15* 

138, 169, 175, x8i f 228 
Ingrains, Harold, 13, 46, 52* 54 
Ingrams, Doreen, 13 



Iraq, vii, 3, 12, 70, 73, 75-9, 81- 
82, 88-9, 91, 93, 97, 100-4, 
108, in, 118-19, 125, 129, 
131-2, 139-41, 143, 145, 150- 
i, 153, 158-9, 177, 195, 198, 
205, 212-13, 258, 282 

Ireland, Mr. (orientalist), 184, 187, 
213, 216 

Isfahan, 86, 147-9 

Ismail, Sir Mirza, 242 

Israel, 140, 280, 282 

Istanbul, 10, 156 

Italy and Italians, 2-3, 7, 10, 19, 21- 
5, 34, 37, 41, 43, 45, 52-3, 
59, 72, in, 160, 191, 195-6, 
228, 239, 244, 252-75, 279, 

Jaipur, 241-3 
Jamil Madfa'i, 116 
Japan, 119, 197 
Jardine, John, 138, 271 
Jerusalem, 73, 116-17, 129, 135, 

Jews (see also Zionism), 16, 31, 62, 

108, 114, 133, 159, 165, I 7^, 
179-80, 182-4, 192, 197, 202- 
3, 206-8, 210, 217, 280-1 

Jiiuiah, 247-8, 250 

Jodhpur, 242 

Kadhimain, no, 114, 116, 126 
Kahn, Mrs. Otto, 173, 175 
Karachi, 147, 250 
Kassem, 141, 143 
Ker, Edwin, 144 
Kermanshah, 84, 86-7, 157 
Kahn Nuqta, 107, no 
Khanikin, 87-8, 91, 112 
Khunum, Adda, 154-5 

Kirkuk, 108, 145, 153, 156-7 
Kurdistan, 144, 152-7 

Lake, Col. Henry (d. 1940), 13, 15- 

Lampson, Sir Miles and Lady, 

later Lord and Lady Killearn, 

57, 70, 72, 230 
Lancaster, Osbert, 228 
Latakia, 123 
Lebanon, 9, 15, 135, 161, 171, 175, 


Libya, 21, 52, 61, 80, 123, 133 
Lippmann, Walter, 1 86, 215 
Lloyd, Seton, 92-4, 109, 113, 118 
London, 7, 10, 41, 43, 52, 58, 69, 

144, 182, 187, 199, 221-4, 228, 

243, 266, 273, 276 
Longmore, Air Chief Marshal Sir 

Arthur, 58, 63 
Longworth, Alice, 211 
Los Angeles, 194-9, 202 
Lothian, Sir Arthur, 237 
Luce, Clare, 175-7, 179, 218-19 

Luce, Henry, 218-19 
Luling-Volpi, Contessa Marina, 

72-3, 252-3, 264 
Luxor, 55, 70 
Lyttelton, Sir Oliver, later Viscount 

Chandos, 58 

MacCallum, Miss, 208 
McCall, Miss, 181 
McCormick, Anne, 218 
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. Malcolm, 

165, 207-8, 210, 271 
White Paper, 165-6, 176, 181, 183, 
186, 191, 195, 200, 207-8, 271 
MacMichael, Sir Harold and Lady, 
74, 227, 243 


Nicolson, Hon. Sir Harold, 228, 


Nicosia, 137 
Nuri as-Said Pasha, 3, 109, 113, 

141, 143, 158, 160, 178, 195, 

210, 215 

murder of, 109, 141-2 

Palestine, 12, 25, 29, 52, 62, 74, 
89, 94, 103, 124, 130, 134-6, 
158-9, 161, 165-6, 175-6, 
178, 181-7, 190, 192-3, 197-8, 

200, 203, 205-8, 210, 215, 233, 

271, 281-2 

Macmillan, M.P., Rt. Hon. 

Harold, 161 
Macrae, John, 105 
Madras, 235 

Main, Ernest, 92, 113-15 
Makins, later Sir Roger, 161 
Malaya, 129 
Malta, 132 
Marriott, Major-General Sir John, Olmstead, Dr., 189 

and Lady, 55, 57, 173, 218- Ottawa, 207-9 

19, 245-6 

Maugham, Viscount (Robin), 171 Pakistan, 199, 229 
Maxwell, Elsa, 218-19 
Meshed, 147-9 
Meyer, Eugene, 183-4 
Mhow, 235 
Miller, John, 273-4 
Mississippi, 193 
Monckton, Sir Walter, later Vis- Pasadena, 195 

count Monckton, 71 Pavia, 263-4, 266 

Monroe, Elizabeth (Mrs. Neame) tomb of St Augustine, 264 

(see also under author's let- Pearl Harbour, 61, 179 

ters), 175 Pennefeather, Harold, 109 

Mosul, 101-2, 112-13, 115, 120, Perim, n, 51, 53, 55 

145, 151 Perowne, Stewart (see also under 

Mufti, the, 77, 81, 83, 97-9, in author's letters), 10, 14, 16-17, 

Muhammed AK, Prince, 57 20, 45, 47-8, 52, 54, 118, 123, 

Muhammed Baban, 153 126, 131, 161, 166, 271-2 

Murray, John Grey (Jock) (see also Perseus in the Wind, 245 

under author's letters), viii, 10, Persia, 84, 86-87, 119, 124, 129, 

15, 44, 161, 240, 252, 254, 273 146-7, 149, 157, 220 

Mussolini, 20, 22, 26, 53 Philip, Aidant, 118, 172 

Political Officers (work of), 118, 


Port Sudan, 54-5 
Pott, Leslie, 89 

Mrs, Pott, 101 
Pritchard, Sir Fred (Judge), 115, 

Mysore, 235, 239-40 

Napier, A. N. Williamson, 63 
Nehru, Pandit, 192, 249 
New England, 220-1 
New Mexico, 193, 196 
New York, 173-82, 192, 210-11, 


Pumphrey, PhylHda, 69, 117 



Qadhi al Amri, 38-9 

Qadhi Muhammad Raghib, 22, 

24-5,29-31, 36 
Madame Qadlii, 22-4 
Quetta, 112, 146-7 
Qurna, 109, 152 

Rajputana, 240-3 

Ramadi, 98, 106, 109 

Ramzi Bey, 63 

Ranfurly, Countess of, 125 

Rankin, Charles, 249, 267 

Rashid Airfield, 91, 103-4 

Rashid Ali al Gailani, 76-80, 94-5, 

104, 106, in, 114, 142 
Ravenna, 190, 266 
Red Sea, n, 14, 41, 49, 5*, 55, 198 
Regina, 205-6 
Reid, Air Vice-Marshal Sir R. 

Macfarlane, 14 

Reilly, Sir Bernard, 13, 20, 25, 227 
Resafa, 123 
Rome, 34, 228, 249, 251, 254, 259, 

262, 266, 274-5 
Roosevelt, President (d. 1945), 

191, 199, 212, 240 
Rothschild, Alyx, 218 
Russell Pasha, Sir Thomas (d. 

* 1954), 53 
Russell, Vaughan, Mr. and Mrs., 


Russia, 60, 123, 125, 134, 140, 147, 
149, 188, 213, 215, 253, 278 

Salamis, 137 
Samaha, Mr,, 69 
San'a, 20, 22, 25, 28-30 

letters written from, 22-40 
San Francisco, 200-3, 2 *6 
Sarton, May, 244 

Scaife, Christopher, 71, 134-5, 145, 

151, 158,210-11 
Scobie, General, 279 
Sebastopol, 119 
Selous, G. H., and Mrs., 203 
Shearer, Brigadier Eric, 64 
Sheba, 28 
Simla, 244-50 

Simla Conference, 246-50 
Sinderson, Dr., later Sir Harry, 88, 


Singapore, 119, 128-9, 132 
Skrine, Sir Claremont and Lady, 


Smart, Sir Walter, 53 
Snyder, Major, 213 
Somaliland, British, 43, 50, 52, 198 
Southern Gates of Arabia, 273 
Spears, Major-General Sir Edward, 

and Lady, 135 
Stark, Freya 

difficulty of writing autobio- 
graphy, 1-2 
her task of propaganda or 

'persuasion*, 3 
her friendships, 3-4, 160 
Italy and Fascists, 2 
her mother (see also under 
Letters) 3, 43, 72, 138, 251-3 
in Syria, 7-10 
Templars* casdes and fortresses 

of Assassins, 7, 9 
in Greece, 10 
tragic news received in Aleppo, 


her reading, 7 
lecture at Chatham House, 12- 


in Aden under Ministry of In- 
formation, 10-18 



Stark, Freya (continued) 
goes to the Yemen, 20-40 
'persuasion' in the Yemen, 22- 

cinema films, 23-4, 26-34, 36- 

visits harims, 26, 28, 30, 32-3, 

returns to Aden from the Yemen, 


begins to keep diary, 42 
bad news from France, 43 
working under difficulties, 45 
hears of war with Italy and sur- 

render of France, 46-7 
air raids in Aden, 48 
translates papers captured by 

Royal Navy, 48-9 
goes Cairo for liaison and con- 

sultations, 50-4 
flies to Aden, 54 
returns to Cairo, 55 
stays Cairo, September 1940 to 

April 1941 and subsequently 

at intervals, 56-73 
kindness from British Embassy in 

Cairo, 57 

her life in Cairo, 56-73 
the Desert War, 52, 56, 58, 61, 75 
visits General Wavell at G.H.Q., 


methods of * persuasion', 64-8 
founds Brotherhood of Freedom 

(q.v.) 63-71 
spends two Christmases in Luxor, 

her mother's imprisonment and 

release, 72 

constant headaches, 72 
moves to Baghdad, 73 


friendship with British Ambas- 
sador and family, 75-6 

Iraqi crises, 77-116 

discussion with George An- 
tonius, 79-80 

describes problems of propa- 
ganda in Iraq, 8 1-2 

spends five days in Teheran, 84- 

description of landscapes on 

journey, 84-6 

returns hurriedly to Baghdad, 86 
siege of Embassy in Baghdad, 

shortage of food during siege, 94, 

R.A.F, activities in Iraq, 91, 96, 

98-100, 102-4, 1 06, 111-12 
armistice arranged, 111-13 
flies to Jerusalem, 116 
in Cairo for a month, then re- 

turns to Iraq, 118 
life and work in Baghdad, 1941 / 

2, H9-34 

holiday on Carmel, 121-3 
description of landscape, 122 
returns to Baghdad along 

Euphrates, 123 
her * private life had become 

singularly pleasant*, 125 
writes to Minister of State in 

Cairo, 130 
two months' leave in Cyprus, 

declines to go to America, 138 
death of her mother, 138 
writes of visit to Iraq in 1957, 142 
lecture tours during X94i/a 143- 

leaves Middle East, 1943, 146 


visits India and Persia, 146-9 
writes report to Owen Tweedy, 


tour through. Kurdistan, 153-7 
*my earliest friend in Iraq 

Muhammad Baban*, 153 
leaves Baghdad, 153 
description of journey, 153-4 
is awarded R.G.S. gold medal, 


flies to England, 161 
attitude to Zionism, 165-6 
passage to America, 165-73 
develops acute appendicitis, 167- 

after recovery, stays in New York 

with Mrs. Otto Kahn, 173-4 
describes work in letters, 175- 


goes to Washington, 181 
work and life in Washington, 


meets journalists, 186 
goes to Chicago, 188 
meets Zionists, 190-1 
lectures, 192, 195, 200-1, 206-7 
in California, 194-201 
goes to Vancouver, 202-3 
visits ranch at Creston, B.C., 204- 


in Winnipeg, 206-7 

stays with Malcolm Macdonald 
and sister in Ottawa, 207-8 

meets Canadian-Arab Friend- 
ship Committee, 208-9 

lecture-tour ends, 209 

arranges publication in New 
York of The Arabian Isle, 210 

meetings and talks in Washing- 
ton, 211-17 

questions about her asked in 
House of Commons, 216 

sees Arabic manuscripts at 
Princeton, 217 

discussions, lectures and parties 
in New York, 217-21 

clothing coupons, 217-18 

'incredible' party given by Elsa 
Maxwell, 218-19 

week in New England, 220 

letter from Isaiah Berlin, 221 

in England in 1944, 222-9 

'human courage all around', 224 

spends four months in Devon- 
shire, 225 

accepts invitation from Lady 
Wavell to work in India, 229 

five months in India, * ahappy, un- 
productive half-year', 230-50 

sees presentation of Victoria 
Crosses, 231 

education in India, 233 

tours in India, 234-50 

*a nostalgia for India has never 
left me', 243 

flies to Treviso, 250-1 

Italy in Ip45> 252-75 

a hard winter, 262-3 

describes places visited, 256, 
259-60, 263 

reading centres, 262-6, 274 

a 'pattern' in her life, 282 

the *art of Persuasion*, 282-3 


Lord Amherst, 245, 259-60, 270-1 
Lucy Beach, 152 
Isaiali Berlin, 223-4 
Henry Channon, 170-1 
Brigadier Clayton, 170-1 



Stark, Freya (continued) 
Nigel Clive, 174, 182 
Peter Coats, 172-3, 261-2 
Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, 19-20 
Sir Moore Crosthwaite, 244 
Lord Euston, 257-9 
Lional Fielden, 278-80 
Gerald, de Gaury, 148, 173, 230-3 , 

238-40, 244, 246-50, 254-6, 

267-8, 271, 274-5 
Austen Harrison, 242-3 
Pamela Hore-Ruthven, 169-70, 

173-4, 194-5 
Mrs. Otto Kahn, 243 
Edwin Ker, 194 

Lady Marriott ('Momo'), 245-6 
Robin Maugham, 171 
Elizabeth Monroe, 175-87, 189- 

209, 211-21 

Jock Murray, 41, 169 187-8, 

260-1, 268-8 

Sir Harold Nicolson, 280-2 
Stewart Perowne, 22-40, 180 
Aiden Philip, 172 
Charles Rankiti, 256-7, 267 
May Sarton, 244 
Flora Stark (author's mother), 

8-10, 15-16, 27, 29, 31, 35, 

41-2, 44-6, 60-1, 70-3, *3I~4 

127-9, 131-4 
Owen Tweedy, 149-51 
Lord Wavell, 196-7, 226-7, 265, 

270, 275 

Lady Wavell, 234-5 
Rushbrook Williams, 16, 83-4 


in Aden, 42-5, 47 
in Cairo, 61 

in Baghdad, 77-82, 86, 89-116 

in Halabja, 154-7 

in Udaipur, 236 - 

in Asolo, 263 

Stark, Mrs. Flora (d. 1942) (see 
also under author's letters), 3, 
43, 72, 123, 138, 251-3 

An Italian Diary f 72, 252-3, 261 
Stern gang, 184 
Stewart, Michael, 262, 274 
Stimson, Mr., 185, 188 
Storrs, Sir Ronald, 137, 229, 243 
Stowe, Leland, 192 
Suez Canal, 2, 58, 145 
Suleimaniya, 153-6 
Sulzberger, Mr., 217 
Sykes, Capt. Christopher, 53 
Syria, 7-10, 58, 76, 103, 107, 117, 
119, 130, 135, 161, 176, 212, 

Tartous, 9 

Taurus mountains, 8 

Tedder, Lord, Marshal of the Royal 

Air Force, 58 

Teheran, 84-6, 89, 147-9, 244 
Thompson, Dorothy, 177-8, 218 
Thomhill, Colonel C.M. (d. 1952), 

53, 71-2 

Tigris, 115, 126, 152, 172, 203 
Tobruk, 75, 119, 129, 132 
Transjordan, 57, 74, 89, 120, 123, 


Tranvancore, 235, 238 
Treviso, 72, 251, 256, 258-9, 262 
Trichinopoly, 235, 237 
Trieste, 245, 259, 267-8, 275 
Trivandrum, 238 
Turkey and Turks, 8, 22, 25, 58, 

68, 109, 136, 208, 



Tweedy, Owen (see also under Williams, Laurence Rushbrook, 

author's letters), 71, 74, 135, 
letters to author, 151, 158 

Udaipur, 235-6, 241-2 

Vancouver, 202-3 
Varwell, Miss, 225 

16, 52, 69, 82-4 
letter to author, 82-3 
Wilson, Dr., 189 
Wilson, Field-Marshal Lord 

Wilson, 117, 139, 160, 227-8 
Winnipeg, 206-7 
Women's Voluntary Service, 229- 

30, 233, 235 

Venice, 10, 73, 255-6, 259-61, Woollcombe, R., author of The 

267-8, 272-3, 275 
Vichy, 76, 103, 123-4 

Walker, Norman, 184 

Waller, Lady, 225 

Washington, 181-7, 196, 209, 211- 

Waterhouse, Major-General G. G. Yafa'i, 15-16 

Campaigns of Wavell, 41, 52 
Woolley, Sir Charles and Lady, 137 
World War 1, 13, 186, 198, 205 
World War H, i, et seq 
Wright, Sir Michael and Lady, 181, 

183-4, 187, 209, 217 


Wavell, later Field-Marshal Earl 
(d. 1950) (see also under 
author's letters) 3, 41, 52-3, 
58-9, 72, 77, 119, 128, 146, 
160, 225, 244, 246-50, 269 
letters to author, 225-6, 269 
Lady Wavell, 229-35, 244, 246- 

Wavell, 2nd Earl (d. 1953), 228-9 
Weizmann, Dr. Chaim (d. 1952), 

175, 184-6, 208 
Weygand, General, 124, 197 
Wharton, Lord, 246 

Yemen, 11-12, 15, 17, 19-41, 63-4, 

195, 201, 215, 233 
H.H. the Imam, 21, 24-8, 30-1, 

Prince Qasim, 23-4 
Young, Herbert (d. 1941), 43, 72, 

Zionism and Zionists, 138, 165-6, 
175-7, 179, 182-90, 193-4 

196, 200, 202-3, 206-9,. 212, 
214-17, 271, 280-1 

Balfour Declaration, 175, 178, 
184, 203, 208 

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